Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Friday 1 November 2002

Regina and Burrell – the case that should never have been brought.

In a sensational development, the case brought by the Crown against Paul Burrell, butler to Diana Princess of Wales until her death, collapsed this morning.

The Crown has withdrawn unilaterally from the case and all charges against Paul Burrell have been dropped. The crucial piece of the jigsaw which brought this about appears to have been an ‘off the cuff’ conversation between Her Majesty the Queen and HRH The Prince of Wales as they travelled together by limousine last Friday (25th October 2002) in connection with their attendance at the special church service organised by the Australian High Commission to permit some of the Australian residents in the United Kingdom to gather together to remember those killed in the Bali terrorist outrage a few weeks ago.

It seems that Her Majesty remarked to her son that Paul Burrell had advised Her, during a private audience granted to the latter shortly after the death of Diana, that he had taken a number of personal documents which had belonged to Diana or been in her possession for ‘safe-keeping’; it seems that it was only at this point realised (one presumes by the Prince of Wales) the significance of this with regard to the prosecution in progress against Paul Burrell and that the police were immediately notified of this.

The trial itself was suspended a few days ago, on Tuesday or Wednesday if memory serves, although no indication was given at the time for this, but it now seems clear that the implications of the Queen’s new information were the cause. It seems, from what was broadcast in today’s lunchtime news bulletin on the BBC, that in his statement to the Police given at the time of his arrest about eighteen months ago, Paul Burrell had stated that he had had a discussion with Her Majesty shortly after the death of the Princess of Wales and that during that audience he had advised Her that he planned to take some personal items for safekeeping; this statement was, however, not followed up by the police – it seems quite extraordinary that this should have not been done, in retrospect, specially as it was a crucial component of the Crown case against Mr Burrell that he had not given any indication that he had taken, far less had any authority to do as he did in taking, the items.

What does all this mean? It seems to me that it resolves into a situation that occurs often enough in many families much less ‘exalted’ than the Royal Family. Upon the death of a member of a family, the enmities which had simmered for years between the deceased and surviving members of the family are brought to the surface and ‘scores’ aired, often in an unseemly fight over the possessions of the deceased. It is Paul Burrell’s misfortune, I think, that he was caught in the cross-fire because of the close relationship he had with, and because of the trust reposed in him by, the late Princess of Wales.

Despite claims made by the police, at the beginning of the trial, absolutely no evidence was presented that Paul Burrell had attempted or investigating the possibility of selling or otherwise exploiting any of the items found in his possession at the time of the police raid on his home. Nor did they find any of the ‘important’ items (a letter and a ring) they had been led to believe might by found in his possession. The prosecution case was already beginning to look weak following the cross-examination of police witnesses by Defence counsel and the mysterious dismissal of the first jury soon after the trial had originally begun was another curious feature of this case.

Undoubtedly, as with much of the background to this case, the ‘truth’ behind why this case was brought and at whose instigation, will be veiled in secrecy. However, for Paul Burrell at least, the outcome of the case is a happy one, although one no doubt mingled with poignant sadness. As he is reported to have said after the case was dismissed: “The Queen came through for me.” Indeed She did.

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