Leaked letter reveals Charles and Cabinet’s fears over Paul Burrell Diana theft case just before it collapsed
- Mr Burrell was the Princess of Wales’s butler for 10 years until her death in 1997
- Charles expressed concern about William and Harry testifying
The extent of the government’s concerns about the trial of Princess Diana’s butler Paul Burrell over the alleged theft of her belongings – and the fears expressed by King Charles – have been revealed by a confidential Whitehall document leaked to The Mail on Sunday.
Mr Burrell was tried in 2002 on charges of stealing 310 items worth £4.5 million belonging to the late Princess of Wales.
But the Old Bailey trial collapsed after the Queen recalled Mr Burrell telling her he was keeping some of Diana’s belongings.
Charles, then Prince of Wales, had raised concerns within the royal family about the embarrassment his sons William and Harry were likely to suffer if they were called to testify – and possible revelations about Diana’s private life.
Earlier this year, Harry admitted calling Mr Burrell a ‘two-faced***’ who was ‘attention seeking and self-interested’.
Paul Burrell was Princess Diana’s butler for ten years until her death in 1997. Burrell went on trial at the Old Bailey in 2002 and was accused of stealing some of her belongings, but the case collapsed.
Charles, then Prince of Wales, had expressed concerns about the embarrassment his sons, William and Harry, would likely face if they were called to testify
In testimony before a High Court hacking trial, the Duke of Sussex admitted that, after the 2002 case collapsed, William had wanted to meet with Mr Burrell as “the only way to stop him discovering any more Diana secrets.” would sell’ – but Harry feared the former. servant would simply use it as an opportunity to make money.
Mr Burrell was a footman to the Queen and later a butler to Diana for ten years, until her death in 1997.
Now a confidential letter, seen by this newspaper, reveals discussions held by senior government and royal figures, including Cabinet Secretary Sir Richard Wilson and Sir Robin Janvrin, the Queen’s Private Secretary, about the trial.
Written on November 3, 2002 – two days after the case collapsed – by David Brummell, the chief legal adviser to the then Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, it reveals that the high-level talks had agreed on the ‘potential for damaging criticism if there was (in this case) improper interference from any source’.
The letter contains a reference to a conversation between Sir John Stevens, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and Sir Richard, in which Sir John said: ‘he did not consider that the POW (Prince of Wales) had made any improper attempt to to mix course. of the criminal investigation’ and that ‘the POW had withdrawn all reservations’.
The letter also shows that prior to the trial, on 22 May 2002, Charles received advice from Sir Stephen Lamport, his private secretary, which ‘concerned the issue of the extent to which the views of the victims of a theft are relevant to the prosecution decision’.
The conclusion reached was that ‘while the views of the victim may be duly taken into account… these cannot be decisive in the decision whether or not to prosecute’.
Charles with William and Harry during their skiing holiday to Klosters, Switzerland in 2002
The wording suggests members of the royal family expressed their preference not to take action against Mr Burrell.
A 2003 investigation by Sir Michael Peat, Charles’ private secretary, found that Charles had ‘serious concerns about the implications of Mr Burrell’s trial, including the prospect of himself and his sons being called as witnesses, and that he felt was concerned that information would reveal personal information. to himself and his family would be revealed at trial.
His greatest concern in that respect was the distress that might be caused to his sons by ‘revelations’, whether true or not, concerning their mother.
He was told that he could not properly intervene in… the prosecution process.’ It is unclear why the letter is now circulating in Whitehall: the Cabinet Office said the letter was not eligible for release under the 20-year rule because the author was still alive, while Buckingham Palace declined to comment.