Police dropped inquiry into Princess calls

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THE Metropolitan Police confirmed yesterday that it investigated a series of anonymous telephone calls to Oliver Hoare, a wealthy art dealer and friend of the Princess of Wales, but said there would be no inquiry into how details of the investigation appeared in a newspaper.

Sir Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said the inquiry ended at the request of Mr Hoare, 48, a dealer in Islamic art. He denied in a statement that a politician - rumoured to be a government minister - had been briefed by officers or had intervened to influence the conduct of the inquiry.

Last night several senior Conservative MPs were unhappy that Sir Paul was not prepared to hunt down the source of the leak. Sir Ivan Lawrence, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, called on Sir Paul to explain why he believed there had been no police malpractice. Sir Teddy Taylor, MP for Southend East, said he intended to raise the matter with Michael Howard, the Home Secretary.

In the first official confirmation of the investigation Sir Paul did not refer to the Princess and said that no one had been interviewed as a possible caller.

Piers Morgan, editor of the News of the World, denied yesterday that police were the source of its story at the weekend which claimed the calls had been traced to several phones to which the Princess had access. In a subsequent interview with the Daily Mail, the Princess denied she had made the calls.

Press reports have suggested that police had tipped off a senior politician with royal connections that the source of the calls had been traced to telephones to which the Princess had access; the calls then stopped.

After demands from Conservative MPs for an investigation into the source of the leak, Mr Morgan said the story did not come from 'a serving police officer'. He declined to comment on the suggestion that it might have come from an employee of British Telecom - which had helped police in the inquiry.

Mr Morgan described the story as a 'good old-fashioned journalistic scoop' which the newspaper had not paid for. He did not expect legal action by the Princess, who is reported to have taken advice from her lawyer, Lord Mishcon.

According to Sir Paul, the police investigation began in October 1993 after Mr Hoare reported unexplained calls. The inquiry ended in March this year at Mr Hoare's request. The statement did not say why Mr Hoare asked for the investigation to end or whether the identity of the caller was established.

Sir Paul said: 'At no stage was any politician briefed by the Metropolitan Police or by anyone acting for us. Nor did any politician or anyone else seek to influence the inquiry at any stage.' He added: 'If at any time any evidence emerges which suggests malpractice on the part of any police officer, we will of course have the matter thoroughly investigated.'

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