Burrell refuses to return to Diana inquest

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The Independent Online

Paul Burrell has refused to return from the US to be questioned about whether he lied at the inquest into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, it was confirmed today.

The former royal butler was asked to make a second appearance at the central London hearing after a transcript from a video-taped conversation revealed that he might not have told the whole truth.

Coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker told the hearing: "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's reported comments appeared in The Sun on February 18.

In a statement, inquest officials said: "The coroner asked him to give further evidence, either in person, or via video-link, from abroad.

"Mr Burrell has refused to do this and as he is currently outside the court's jurisdiction, the coroner has no power to compel him to give evidence.

"In these circumstances, the coroner has decided that further information from Mr Burrell should be read to the jury to ensure they have as complete a picture as possible.

"The coroner's purpose, in seeking to recall Mr Burrell, was for him to explain the alleged inconsistencies between what he said in evidence and what he said on the occasion referred to in The Sun.

"In light of Mr Burrell's refusal to give evidence, the coroner has taken the decision that further information from Mr Burrell should be read to the jury to ensure they have as much information as possible.

"Due to the ongoing nature of the inquests, it is inappropriate for the inquest team to make any further comments at this time."

Court officials confirmed that an investigation into whether Mr Burrell committed perjury was not in the coroner's remit.

Sections of the transcript of the conversation in which Mr Burrell admits not telling the "whole truth" and inserting "red herrings" were read to the court.

The conversation was recorded in a New York hotel on 18 February after Mr Burrell gave evidence to the inquest a month before.

It sparked calls for him to be brought back to be cross examined again.

On the tape Mr Burrell, who now lives in Florida, told a man described only as a "contact" that he had made his near 500-mile round trip from London to his home in Cheshire to pick up documents for the coroner because he had to "play the game".

In the transcript, Mr Burrell said: "I sacrificed my own integrity for the bigger picture, but people are wise enough to realise that."

He went on: "Perjury isn't a very nice thing to have to consider."

The former butler went on to deny that he had committed perjury but added: "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."

As the conversation progressed he described the experience of giving evidence at the inquest as "closure" because of the way he felt he was treated.

But Mr Burrell told the "contact" that the coroner had sought to push him further than he was prepared to go in revealing Diana's secrets

He said: "It's a contempt of court and you can go to prison, so there was no way I was going there, no way. I wanted to steer it away from that as much as possible and I was very naughty, and I laid a couple of red herrings."

As the conversation came to an end Mr Burrell repeated: "What I told I told but I didn't tell the whole truth."

Asked who he was protecting, he said: "My own integrity."