Diana's butler refuses to return to inquest

LONDON Thu Mar 6, 2008 7:17am EST

Princess Diana's former butler Paul Burrell poses for photographers at the High Court in London January 14, 2008. Burrell has refused to be questioned about whether he lied to the inquest into her death. REUTERS/Kieran Doherty

Princess Diana's former butler Paul Burrell poses for photographers at the High Court in London January 14, 2008. Burrell has refused to be questioned about whether he lied to the inquest into her death.

Credit: Reuters/Kieran Doherty

LONDON (Reuters) - Princess Diana's butler has refused to be questioned about whether he lied to the inquest into her death.

Paul Burrell faced a three-day grilling from lawyers in January when he flew in from Los Angeles to give evidence over the deaths of Diana and her lover Dodi al-Fayed in a 1997 Paris car crash.

Dodi's father, luxury department store Harrods owner Mohamed al-Fayed, alleges the couple were killed by British security forces on the orders of Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth's husband and Diana's former father-in-law.

On the day that al-Fayed peppered his testimony to the inquest with a string of allegations covering a whole host of British establishment figures, The Sun tabloid published details of an interview with Burrell.

In a video recording obtained by the tabloid, he appeared to say he had held back certain facts and introduced "red herrings" during his evidence to the inquest.

In a statement released on Thursday, 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."

At an emotionally charged appearance at the inquest, Burrell was repeatedly asked by lawyer Michael Mansfield, representing Dodi's father, exactly how much he knew about the secrets he was supposed to have held for Diana.

"If I put it politely, you are all over the place," Mansfield told the butler, known as "Diana's Rock", after running through conflicting evidence he gave to the court.

Burrell, confessing to confusion as he tried to recall a lifetime of memories, said of his legal grilling: "Quite frankly, it's been horrid. It's been quite disgraceful actually. ... I didn't expect it to go to such depths."

Under British law, an inquest is needed to determine the cause of death when someone dies unnaturally.

French and British police investigations have both concluded that Diana and Dodi died in an accident caused by their driver who was drunk and speeding. Both inquiries rejected al-Fayed's conspiracy theories.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)