Diana did not talk to me in final months, admits her mother

Cahal Milmo
Friday 25 October 2002 00:00 BST

The mother of Diana, Princess of Wales, revealed yesterday that she had not spoken to her "tempestuous'' daughter in the four months before her death and that she died without healing a rift between them.

When Frances Shand Kydd appeared at the Old Bailey for the first time to give evidence at the trial of Diana's butler, Paul Burrell, she said that the Princess had returned her letters unopened.

Mrs Shand Kydd, 66, who had to be helped to the witness box, described her relationship with her daughter as "loving" but agreed she could be "tempestuous". She denied they fell out because she disapproved of some of the Princess's friends.

Mrs Shand Kydd told the court: "Every family has these disagreements and disputes, [which are] irrelevant to the future."

She added that the epithet attached to Mr Burrell by the Princess – "my rock'' – had been a general term that she used for her family and other employees, including her drivers and her police protection officers.

Mrs Shand Kydd said: "I think there has been a slight misinterpretation by Mr Burrell when my daughter called him 'my rock'. This was a term she used regularly to many people. She called me her rock and star, and such terms were used to many people, including him [Mr Burrell], but not only him.''

Lady Sarah McCorquodale, the Princess's sister, told the court that Mr Burrell turned down an invitation to take his pick of her possessions after her death by claiming all he needed from her were the memories "in my heart''.

Mr Burrell had been entrusted with several of Diana's "most sensitive items'', including James Hewitt's signet ring, but he reputedly failed to return them when asked, Lady Sarah said.

The jury of seven men and five women had heard that Mr Burrell allegedly used his access to Diana's apartments in Kensington Palace to take nearly 300 valuables that were later found crammed into his Cheshire home.

Lady Sarah told the court how she and Mrs Shand Kydd, the executors of the will, had worked closely with Mr Burrell, 44, on clearing the Palace rooms before they decided to change the will to make him a £50,000 payment in recognition of his service to Diana, designed in part to help him to pay for a new home.

In the months following the Princess's fatal car crash in 1997, Mr Burrell had been a regular presence at Kensington Palace alongside Diana's mother and sister as they packed and categorised thousands of possessions to calculate inheritance tax, the court heard. Among the tasks given to Mr Burrell was that of destroying the clothing worn by Diana when she died, which, the court heard, he kept in his fridge before burning it.

Lady Sarah said she had decided to offer Mr Burrell, who had not been named in the will written by Diana in 1993, a memento from among her belongings. "I had offered anything he would like to take," she said. "He said he would not because his memories were in his heart, and that is all he needed.''

The Princess had kept her most personal possessions, including sensitive letters, in her study locked in a large wooden chest, which Lady Sarah had opened in Mr Burrell's presence when she found the key in a tennis racket cover. Lady Sarah had then entrusted several items from the box, which contained the signet ring from Diana's former lover, to the butler, only for them to then vanish, it was claimed.

Diana's sister told the court: "I asked Paul for them back several times. He said they were in packing cases in Cheshire and he would get them back to me. He never did.''

Although a search of Mr Burrell's home failed to find the items, she denied a claim from Lord Carlile QC, for the defence, that she was mistaken when she said she had given them to him. Mr Burrell, who is not facing charges over the box's contents, denies three counts of theft from the estate of the Princess, the Prince of Wales and Prince William.

The case continues.

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