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Handwriting expert says Diana murder prediction letter is NOT a forgery

London Times

DIANA, Princess of Wales, predicted her own death in a car crash ten months before it happened, newly published correspondence showed yesterday.

In a comment that is certain to fuel wild conspiracy theories, the Princess wrote that she was sure that an individual — thought to have been a serving police officer — was “planning” the accident.

Diana wrote that she suspected that someone was plotting to sabotage the brakes of her car in order to “make the path clear” for the Prince of Wales to remarry.

The letter is said to have been written to her butler, Paul Burrell, and was reproduced in yesterday’s Daily Mirror after the name of the individual suspected by the Princess had been blacked out.

The authenticity of the letter, said to have been written in October 1996, was not seriously questioned yesterday by a handwriting expert commissioned by The Times, who said that it was probably not a forgery.

It was unclear last night why Mr Burrell, 45, failed to make the letter available to the French judge who investigated the death of Diana and Dodi Fayed in a car crash in a Paris road tunnel in August 1997.

Mr Burrell was in the United States promoting a book which is to be published next week and which is being serialised in the Mirror. He was not available for comment.

In the letter, Diana expresses her “longing for someone to hug me and encourage me to keep strong and hold my head high”.

She goes on to claim that “this particular phase in my life is the most dangerous”, and adds that an individual “is planning ‘an accident’ in my car. Brake failure and serious head injury in order to make the path clear for Charles to marry”.

The letter was written at a time when the Princess was “signalling her return to the public eye”, as one tabloid newspaper reported, with a new hairstyle and a series of well-publicised engagements including a visit to Harrods with a sick child and a trip to Italy to collect a humanitarian award.

Her marriage had ended in divorce less than two months earlier. Although the letter may shed no light on the cause of her death, it does offer some insights into her state of mind.

She wrote that she had been “battered, bruised and abused for 15 years”, and complained that the Prince of Wales had put her through hell.

“Thank you, Charles, for putting me through such hell and for giving me the opportunity to learn from the cruel things you have done to me,” she wrote. “I have gone forward fast.”

At one point she added: “I am weary of the battles, but I will never surrender. I am strong inside and maybe that is a problem for my enemies.”

The Mirror is thought to have been offered the letter with the name of the individual already blacked out, and is not thought to have seen all four pages.

Friends of the Princess’s family said last night that they doubted that it had been sent to Mr Burrell. One said: “The feeling among her friends is that it is inconceivable that Diana would send Burrell a letter of that nature. How much is he making out of his latest disclosure? It’s not very nice for William and Harry, is it?”

Aides of the Prince of Wales — who was yesterday at Birkhall, on the Queen’s Balmoral estate, with Camilla Parker Bowles — conceded that the latest wave of headlines would be hugely damaging.

One said: “It’s the last thing we need. It will fuel the conspiracy theories. While we know, and Burrell knows, that they are garbage, the existence of the letter is a terribly revealing insight into the state of mind of the Princess.”

Mr Burrell stood trial at the Old Bailey last year accused of three charges of the theft of items that once belonged to the Princess.

The house in Cheshire that he shares with his wife, Maria, and their two sons had been searched 18 months earlier by police officers who said they were looking for “the Crown Jewels” — thought to have been a reference to potentially damaging letters and tape recordings that the Princess had possessed.

The case collapsed shortly before Mr Burrell had been due to give evidence after the intervention of the Queen, who disclosed to the Prince of Wales that she had talked to the butler shortly after Diana’s death about possessions that he was looking after.

While it was not clear why Mr Burrell had not revealed the existence of the letter before now, it is clear that its publication will encourage those who have long considered Diana’s death to have been suspicious, and who have never accepted the conclusion of the two-year French inquiry.

Judge Hervé Stephan ruled that the accident was caused by the alcohol and drugs consumed by Mr Fayed’s driver, Henri Paul, and by his excessive speed.

Mohamed Al Fayed, father of Dodi, called on the Prime Minister yesterday to launch a public inquiry into the incident. “This confirms the suspicions I have so often voiced in public and which have thus far been ignored,” he said in a statement.

“I am disappointed that it has taken Burrell six years to reveal this extraordinary correspondence, and it raises questions as to what other important secrets he may be harbouring.”

Mr Fayed said he believed that Mr Burrell may have withheld this vital evidence after being put under pressure by the Royal Household.

He went on: “In what must now be seen as a cynical attempt to silence him, Paul Burrell was prosecuted in the criminal courts but this bungled move has simply served to highlight the involvement of the Royal Household in the strange circumstances surrounding Diana’s death.

“The Prime Minister must now accept that the time is right for a full public inquiry. Further delay will look as though he is colluding in a cover-up and the people of this country will not tolerate that.”

Solicitors for Trevor Rees Jones, the bodyguard who survived the accident, said: “He’s not interested in commenting on the crash now. He really just wants to be left alone.”

Publication of the letter will increase pressure on Michael Burgess, the coroner who has yet to hold an inquest into the death of Diana or Mr Fayed more than six years after their deaths.

After the death of Helen Smith, a 23-year-old nurse whose body was found at the foot of a block of flats in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in May 1979, the Court of Appeal ruled that coroners must hold inquests on the unnatural deaths of Britons overseas.

The ruling means that coroners must open an inquest into any “violent or unnatural death or sudden death of unknown cause wherever the death occurred”, once the body is returned to his or her jurisdiction. As the Surrey Coroner, Mr Burgess is expected to hold an inquest on Dodi Fayed because he was buried in the county. He is also Coroner to the Royal Household, which means that he must also hold an inquest on the Princess.

Shortly after the pair died with M Paul in the Pont d’Alma tunnel on August 31, 1997, Mr Burgess said that he believed that an inquest would be a “a waste of time and public money”.

This year, a spokesman for Mr Burgess said an announcement on the date for the inquests would be made within days. Hours later the statement was withdrawn on Mr Burgess’s instructions.

“In time, as the law requires, there will be inquests into the deaths of both Dodi Fayed and Diana, Princess of Wales,” he said. He added, however, that it would be premature to say when the inquests would be held.

Mr Burgess was not available yesterday.

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