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Uk probe named charles in plot { January 6 2004 }

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UK to Probe Diana Death as Charles Named in 'Plot'
Tue January 06, 2004 07:38 AM ET

By Michael Holden and Kate Kelland
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain launched a top-level police investigation into the death of Princess Diana on Tuesday as a tabloid newspaper named her former husband Prince Charles as the person she suspected of plotting to kill her.

More than six years after Diana died in a car crash in Paris, Royal Coroner Michael Burgess opened an inquest into her death by saying Britain's top police officer should investigate claims her death was not an accident but a deliberate plot.

"I am aware that there is speculation that (her death was) not the result of a sad but relatively straightforward road traffic accident in Paris," Burgess told the inquest, which was packed with hundreds of journalists from around the world.

"I have asked the metropolitan police commissioner to make inquiries."

Diana died at the age of 36, along with her lover Dodi al Fayed and their chauffeur Henri Paul, in the August 1997 crash.

In a front-page splash on Tuesday, the Daily Mirror tabloid newspaper named Charles as the person she had claimed was "planning an accident" to kill her.

She made the allegation in a letter she gave to her butler and confidant, Paul Burrell, before she died.

The Mirror quoted from the letter Diana wrote just 10 months before her death. "This particular phase in my life is the most dangerous," it said. "My husband is planning 'an accident' in my car, brake failure and serious head injury."

A spokesman for Prince Charles declined to comment.


Royal biographer Robert Lacey said Diana's claim that her husband wanted her dead reduced the credibility of the allegation.

"It does raise the question about Diana's state of mind, her own paranoia, her sense of panic," he told Reuters.

"It does reduce it to the arena of squabbling ex-spouses. I think people will come to their own views as to whether or not they think Prince Charles would have plotted the death of the mother of his children."

An inquiry by French authorities in 1999 ruled the accident was caused by chauffeur Paul being drunk and driving too fast.

Dodi's father, Mohamed al Fayed, multi-millionaire owner of the exclusive London store Harrods, has long claimed his son and Diana were murdered by British secret services because their relationship was embarrassing the royal household.

Burrell, who gave The Mirror access to the letter as part of a serialization of excerpts from his book, published late last year, reacted angrily to news Charles' name had been revealed.

"I am not very happy about it...I only learned about it late last night. And it was always my intention never to publish that name," he told reporters waiting outside his house.

Coroner Burgess said the inquest would now be adjourned for 12 to 15 months, meaning no evidence will be heard for at least another year.

"I have to separate fact from fiction and speculation," he said in a half-hour-long speech. "Speculation and speculative reports are not themselves evidence, however frequently and authoritatively they may be published, broadcast or repeated."

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