Diana's former butler 'lied' about ring she was given by Dodi Fayed

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The Independent Online

The former royal butler Paul Burrell was accused of lying about a ring given to Diana, Princess of Wales, by Dodi Fayed, during his evidence yesterday at the inquest into their deaths.

The allegation was made by Michael Mansfield QC, who is representing Dodi's father, Mohamed Al Fayed, at the High Court in London.

Mr Al Fayed believes Diana and Dodi were the victims of an alleged murder conspiracy involving the Duke of Edinburgh and agents working for MI6.

Mr Mansfield had already described Mr Burrell's evidence to the court as being "all over the place", before the Princess's former butler admitted to having deliberately kept quiet about Dodi giving Diana a ring shortly before their deaths.

In his 2003 book, A Royal Duty, Mr Burrell wrote that all he knew about a ring was a conversation in the summer of 1997 in which he advised her to wear any ring on her right hand to avoid giving the impression she was engaged. He wrote: "We never had another conversation about a ring or whether one was actually produced."

But, giving evidence to the High Court yesterday, Mr Burrell admitted that he had picked up a ring with Diana's possessions shortly after her death. When Mr Mansfield accused him of "lying" in his book, Mr Burrell replied that he considered that to be a "strong" term. He told the court: "The reason I didn't include it in A Royal Duty was that I didn't feel I had to at the time."

But in a subsequent book, The Way We Were, written a few years later, Mr Burrell gave more details about the ring. "So much was being said about the Princess [that] I only had to dispel the... myth," he insisted.

Mr Burrell faced further embarrassment when the coroner, Lord Justice Scott Baker, said that by publishing excerpts of private letters written by the Duke of Edinburgh to Princess Diana, he had not done the "decent" thing. The coroner suggested that it "would have been a more decent thing to do" to ask Prince Philip for his consent beforehand.

It was only then that Mr Burrell admitted: "On reflection, perhaps yes."

Yesterday was the third day Mr Burrell has spent giving evidence about his time as a butler to Diana. It was clear that the stress of facing such forceful cross-examination was beginning to show. At one point, Mr Burrell told the court: "I did not come here for a character assassination."