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Top police sat on Diana's memo about death fears

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Princess Diana's ex-butler Paul Burrell leaving court after giving evidence at her inquest yesterday

Princess Diana's ex-butler Paul Burrell leaving court after giving evidence at her inquest yesterday

Princess Diana's ex-butler Paul Burrell leaving court after giving evidence at her inquest yesterday

A legal document proving that Princess Diana feared there was a plot to kill her in a car crash was kept secret for six years by Britain's most senior police officers, her inquest was told yesterday.

Victor Mishcon, the Princess' lawyer, went to Scotland Yard nearly three weeks after her death to reveal that she held a meeting with her legal team two years earlier to record her suspicions that her life was in danger.

However, Paul Condon, the then commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and David Veness, then assistant commissioner, decided not to hand Mr Mishcon's memo to French detectives, English coroners or even the Lord Chancellor.

Instead the evidence was sat on for six years because the policemen decided the death was a "tragic accident", Mr Veness told the High Court in London.

In 2003, Mr Condon's successor, John Stevens, decided to go public with the note when Paul Burrell, the Princess's former butler, revealed that he had a handwritten note from the Princess claiming that her husband, the Prince of Wales, was planning to kill her.

Crown

It was also revealed yesterday that the Princess believed that the Crown should skip a generation past the Prince of Wales to their son, William.

Her divorce lawyer Maggie Rae said Diana thought that the Duke of York would act as Regent until Prince William was old enough to take the throne.

"I do recall her saying that on a number of occasions," she told Nicholas Hilliard, counsel for the coroner.

Under cross-examination by Michael Mansfield, for Mohamed Al Fayed, Mr Veness eventually admitted the Mishcon note was "potentially relevant" to the French investigation.

Mr Mishcon had made the note after being summoned to Kensington Palace for a meeting at 4pm on October 30, 1995.

The meeting was also attended by Sandra Davis, a lawyer at Diana's solicitors Mishcon de Reya, Ms Rae, and Commander Patrick Jephson, her private secretary, at Kensington Palace.

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Mr Mishcon's note said that while he found the Princess' concerns astonishing, he felt security measures, particularly to her car, should be increased.

"I frankly, however, couldn't believe that what I was hearing was credible," he wrote.

Brake

However, he did record in his memo that Commander Jephson "half-believed" her fears.

The note revealed that, according to Diana, a "reliable source" had tipped her off about a conspiracy "to get rid or her".

It recorded that she believed the plan included causing "some accident in her car, such as prepared brake failure".

Asked by Mr Mansfield why he did not immediately tell the French police, Mr Veness said he and Mr Condon had decided to "monitor" the Paris investigation, adding that the crash appeared in no way suspicious.

He said had that changed, they would have made it public.

"We formed a view that we could continue to monitor the French investigation and that, if any suspicious factors arose, we would then bring that to the notice of the French authorities," he said.

He rejected Mr Mansfield's suggestion that suspicions should have been aroused after early eyewitness reports that the path of the Mercedes the Princess was in had been blocked and a dazzling flash fired moments before the fatal impact in August 1997.

Mr Veness, who left the force in 2004 and is head of security at the UN, added that his decision was influenced by the fact that some of Diana's predictions, including that the Queen was to abdicate in 1996 to give the throne to Prince Charles, had not come true.

Mr Condon is due to give evidence today, when the inquest continues. (©The Times, London)


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