Burrell refuses to return to Diana court over 'perjury'

Paul Burrell, former butler to Diana, Princess of Wales, has refused to return to the inquest into her death despite being secretly filmed apparently admitting that he had lied during his testimony to the court two months ago.

The man who described himself as a "rock" to the Princess in the years before she was killed was asked by the coroner to return to the High Court after he was recorded admitting he had not told "the whole truth" during his first appearance in January.

Refusing to attend an inquest can be punished by up to 10 years in prison, but yesterday the coroner, Lord Justice Scott Baker, admitted that he had no power to compel Mr Burrell to return because he is living overseas, in Florida.

He told the hearing yesterday: "Mr Burrell is abroad and I have no power to compel a witness to attend to give evidence and he says that he is not going to be in the United Kingdom in the near future."

Mr Burrell had incurred the wrath of the coroner in January after he refused to reveal a mysterious "secret" that Diana supposedly referred to in a letter she left for him shortly before she died. The coroner ordered Mr Burrell to make a 400-mile round trip to his British home in Cheshire to retrieve the letter but Mr Burrell returned saying that he could no longer find it.

Further question marks were raised over the integrity of Mr Burrell's testimony after secret footage appearing to show him admitting he had lied under cross-examination was leaked to The Sun newspaper.

A transcript of the video footage, filmed in a New York hotel room, was read to the court. It quoted Mr Burrell as saying: "I did not tell the whole truth. When you swear an oath you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I told the truth as far as I could but I didn't tell the whole truth." He added: "Perjury isn't a very nice thing to have to consider."

Since the publication of the video, Mr Burrell has denied lying to the court and has given a statement claiming he was just "showing off" to the man who recorded the secret conversation.

"I am not proud of this," he said in the statement to the court. "I was trying to impress him. The comments I made to him were not correct."

He added: "I accept that while I was under cross-examination my evidence may at times have strayed from the strictly relevant, but at no time did I tell any untruths. I tried to assist the court as far as I was able."

Yesterday a court spokesman said that it was not within Lord Justice Baker's remit to investigate perjury but added that any member of the public could ask the police to investigate.

"It is not within his remit, he's not going to get involved with it for the reason that it could guide the jury," the spokesman said.

"Anybody could ask the police to look into this if they so chose and it would be up to the police."