*** Paul Burrell, Diana's butler, removed the princess' blood-stained engagement ring from the finger of her corpse, concealing vital evidence about the circumstances of her death. Burrel was also caught on tape recently admitting that he deliberately lied to and misled the official inquest into the death of Diana and her fiance Dodi Al Fayed. ***
Diana's butler removed engagement ring from finger of her corpse
'Burrell said he took ring from Diana's body in Paris mortuary', bodyguard tells inquest
Paul Burrell claimed to have wrenched a bloodied engagement ring from Princess Diana's body as she lay in a Paris morgue, the royal inquest heard yesterday.
Diana's then butler stashed the ring at a neighbour's house along with papers and other jewellery plundered from the princess, it was claimed.
He later plotted to dispose of the possessions by hurling them out to sea from a luxury cruise liner, the jury was told.
Burrell also burned correspondence headed with the Buckingham Palace crest that the inquest heard could be the missing series of "nasty" letters that Prince Philip is said to have sent Diana.
He allegedly made the claims to his bodyguard-turned-agent, Michael Faux, soon after the collapse of Burrell's 2002 Old Bailey trial on charges of stealing the princess's belongings.
Burrell, who gave evidence to the inquest in January, has refused to return from the U.S. to face a second grilling over allegations that he lied under oath.
Mr Faux told the London hearing that, until now, he had been forced to remain silent about Burrell's boasts because of a legal deal with his ex-boss.
He said: "It has been eating away at me for four or five years to tell someone about what I know, but I have felt that I was not able to do so because I felt bound by the confidentiality agreement that I signed.
"I do, however, feel duty-bound to come forward. I want people to know."
The inquest has heard claims that Diana's lover, Dodi Al Fayed, bought the princess an engagement ring a few hours before their fatal car crash.
Mr Faux said Burrell made the astonishing claim about the "engagement ring" the minute Mr Faux agreed to sign the gagging agreement in late 2002.
The 44-year-old, from Warrington, Cheshire, said: "He said he took it off the body in Paris. There was still blood on the ring and he could prove it was hers by the DNA. I said I was absolutely disgusted with him."
Burrell said he had been warned by lawyers that if details about the ring came out he could get into "serious trouble".
Mr Faux said the butler also described how Diana's neck was twisted when he saw her body on the afternoon of August 31, 1997, hours after her fatal car crash.
"When he described what he had seen at the hospital, he explained that it was very upsetting for him," he said.
The inquest has already heard that Burrell flew to Paris on August 31 and went to see Diana's body in the hospital where she died.
The 49-year-old told the inquest that while there he was handed a Bulgari friendship ring that the princess was wearing on her right hand when she died – although he could not remember who gave it to him.
But Mr Faux said he was only told about an "engagement ring" that had been removed direct from the body.
Burrell told him he wanted to get rid of the ring, together with a "truckload" of personal items including papers and other jewellery belonging to the princess he had secretly hoarded at the home of a neighbour called "Maddy".
He said he planned to hurl them overboard during a trip on the liner Saga Rose in January 2003, which had booked him as an after-dinner speaker. Mr Faux claimed he cancelled the trip to ensure Burrell could not go ahead with his scheme.
However, on another occasion in late 2002, Burrell burned two bin bags full of papers at his home in Farndon, Cheshire, the inquest heard. Mr Faux said Burrell told him: "I need to do this, Mike, I need to do this."
Mr Faux said he could not see what the papers said, but could identify the Buckingham Palace crest.
The inquest has heard that some of the correspondence from Prince Philip to Diana was affectionate, but one friend of hers has testified that there were also a series of "nasty" letters that greatly upset the princess.
In a statement read to the inquest, Burrell confirmed he had paid Mr Faux up to £15,000 between 2002 and 2003, although insisted that he was his bodyguard and not his agent.
He added that was "no conversation" about a ring, that he did not store any property at a neighbour's house and, although he often burned personal correspondence in his garden, he had never set fire to anything important.
Mr Faux, now chief executive of a security company, dismissed Burrell's statement as a "majority of lies".
Harrods tycoon Mohamed Al Fayed believes Diana and his son Dodi were killed on the orders of Prince Philip because she was pregnant and they were planning to marry. The hearing continues.
Evening Standard, "'Burrell said he took ring from Diana's body in Paris mortuary', bodyguard tells inquest", 17 March 2008.
The Guardian, "Burrell refuses to return to court to answer perjury allegations", 6 March 2006.
The Princess of Wales's former butler has refused to return to the inquest into the her death to face questions about whether he perjured himself when he last gave evidence at the court.
Last month, an undercover reporter recorded the butler saying he had lied under oath when he appeared at the inquest in January by withholding information and throwing in "a few red herrings".
His solicitors insisted he had not perjured himself, but had been a victim of entrapment by the Sun newspaper because he had "been drinking all evening [and] was tired and depressed" when the footage was taken in New York.
"I was very naughty and I made a couple of red herrings and I know I couldn't help doing it," he tells a friend in the video. "I know you shouldn't play with justice and I know it's illegal and I realise how serious it is."
Following the newspaper revelations, the coroner, Lord Justice Scott Baker, asked Burrell to return to court to explain the discrepancies between his evidence and his conversation with the undercover reporter.
He was offered the choice of appearing in person or via a videolink.
Today, the coroner told the inquest that Burrell had refused to return from his home in Florida, saying he did not have the power to compel him to appear.
"The Insider" mailing list article, 18 March 2008.
Tags: Diana, engagement ring, Dodi Al Fayed, engaged, Paul Burrel, removed, evidence, Royal Butler, stole, corpse, morgue, mortuary, lied, court, perjury, Establishment, , conspiracy theories.