Palace reserves judgement on authenticity of tape

BUCKINGHAM PALACE said yesterday that a tape recording of a telephone conversation allegedly between the Princess of Wales and a male admirer was 'inconclusive'.

But a spokesman denied earlier reports that the palace had dismissed the recording as a hoax. 'I've now heard part of the tape. Nobody could make a judgement on the basis of what I've heard. It is inconclusive in terms of voice quality,' a spokesman said. Earlier the palace said that the story 'should not be taken seriously'.

The revelations have further embarrassed the Royal Family after the publication last week of pictures of the Duchess of York cavorting topless with John Bryan, her 'financial adviser'.

The American publishers of the transcript of the tapes, dubbed 'Dianagate', claimed an independent voice expert had confirmed the woman was the Princess. The woman is named as the Princess of Wales in a book due out this year.

Today's Sun newspaper invites readers to call a telephone hotline to hear 'the actual conversation'. The paper reports that Cyril Reenan, 70, a retired bank manager turned radio ham, recorded the conversation using a radio scanner. The exchange, said to have taken place on New Year's Eve 1989, is supposed to be between the Princess in her private apartment at Sandringham and a man using a mobile telephone.

Reports of the recordings say the woman mentions 'Wills and Harry', the names of the Princess's two sons. 'Fergie' is also named and there are references to food 'binges'. In June, the book Diana: Her True Story, said to have been tacitly endorsed by the Princess, claimed she had suffered from the 'slimmers' disease' bulimia nervosa.

Sir Jimmy Savile, also said to be named in the conversation, yesterday declined to talk about the recordings. 'That comes into the no-go area,' he said.

A transcript published in the Sun yesterday reveals that the woman complains that her husband 'makes my life real torture'. She describes her unhappiness and frustration, saying: 'I thought 'Bloody hell, after all I've done for this (expletive deleted) family'.'

The unnamed man calls her 'Squidgy' and tells her repeatedly: 'I love you.' The woman's tone is slightly less affectionate but she does tell him he is 'the nicest person in the whole wide world', and when he says 'Kiss me, darling', she appears to blow kisses down the telephone.

The Princess shunned publicity yesterday, bypassing officials at Manchester airport on her way to a surprise visit to the Trinity Hospice in Blackpool. She returned to Balmoral last night.

The Duchess of York, who left Scotland on Sunday, remained at her rented home, Romenda Lodge, in Wentworth, Surrey.

In the recordings, the two discuss the use of mobile telephones. The man says: 'Oh God, I am not going to leave the phone in the car any more, darling . . . and if it rings and someone says: 'What on earth is your telephone ringing for?' I will say: 'Oh, someone's got a wrong number or something'.'

She interrupts: 'No, say one of your relatives is not very well and your mother is just ringing in to give you progress.' He agrees: 'All right, so I will keep it near me, quite near to me tomorrow, because father hates phones out shooting.'