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Report fuels calls for new Diana probe
( 2003-10-21 15:30) (Agencies)

A letter reportedly written by Princess Diana expressing fears that someone was plotting to eliminate her by tampering with the brakes of her car brought the painful story of her death back to the front pages Monday and prompted a call for a public inquiry.

This is a Aug. 9, 1997, file photo of Diana, Princess of Wales, and her butler, Paul Burrell, rear left, meeting Bosnian Serbs and Muslims affected by landmines near Tuzla, Bosnia during the second day of her visit to Bosnia. [AP]
The Daily Mirror tabloid said Diana wrote the letter to her butler Paul Burrell in October 1996 some 11 months before the Paris car crash that killed the princess, her companion Dodi Fayed and the car's driver, Henri Paul.

Fayed's father, Mohammed al Fayed who has long contended the crash was part of a plot to kill the couple and not an accident called on Prime Minister Tony Blair to hold a full and independent public inquiry or stand accused of colluding in a cover-up.

The letter confirmed "the suspicions I have so often voiced in public and which have thus far been ignored," al Fayed, the owner of Harrods department store, said in a statement.

A French judge has ruled that the driver's use of drugs and alcohol and the car's high speed caused the accident Aug. 31, 1997 in a Paris road tunnel. There has never been an inquiry in Britain. A Surrey county coroner said in August he would hold an inquest into Dodi Fayed's death, but no date has been set for it. Buckingham Palace has said there will eventually be a British investigation of Diana's death, since the law requires one, but no date has been announced.

The letter was included in excerpts from Burrell's forthcoming book "A Royal Duty," published Monday in the Daily Mirror. The paper printed a photograph of part of the letter.

The excerpts quoted the princess as writing to Burrell that "this particular phase in my life is the most dangerous."

She reportedly wrote that someone was planning "an accident in my car, brake failure and serious head injury in order to make the path clear for Charles to marry."

The newspaper said Diana named the person she believed was plotting against her but that it could not reveal the identity for fear of a lawsuit. The name was blacked out in the photo of the letter.

The Daily Mirror quoted Burrell as saying that in the letter containing the allegation she told him, "I'm going to date this and I want you to keep it ... just in case."

Clarence House, representing Prince Charles, declined to comment on the latest claims, and a spokeswoman for Diana's brother, Earl Spencer, said he was aware of the newspaper story but had no comment.

Al Fayed criticized Burrell for keeping the letter to himself for so long.

"I'm disappointed that it has taken Burrell six years to reveal this extraordinary correspondence and it raises questions as to what other important secrets he may be harboring," Fayed said.

He suggested Burrell's silence was the result of pressure from the royal household and pointed to the former butler's trial on charges of stealing some of Diana's possessions. Burrell's trial collapsed last year after Queen Elizabeth II said he'd told her he was taking the items for safekeeping.

The book excerpt said Diana suspected listening devices were planted in her home at Kensington Palace and that he and the princess once rolled up the sitting room rug and prised up the floorboards but found no such devices.

Burrell said Diana believed she was regarded as a nuisance once she and Charles were divorced in 1996.

"She certainly felt that 'the system' didn't appreciate her work and that for as long as she was on the scene Prince Charles could never properly move on," the former butler was quoted as saying.

Burrell reportedly told the paper he had been uncertain what to do with the letter.

"That letter had been part of the burden I have carried since the princess's death," he was quoted as saying. "Knowing what to do with it has been a source of much soul-searching."

He said he hoped it would bring a British inquest into Diana's death.

Over the past six years, Burrell was quoted as saying, "I have watched and listened as many individuals have claimed to know the truth about the princess. I know that what was claimed to be the truth is actually far from it."

"I believe the people of Britain and the wider world who loved the princess deserve to know the truth about her life."

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