LONDON (Reuters) - Princess Diana’s butler Paul Burrell did not tell the truth at the inquest into her death, the presiding judge told a jury in London on Tuesday.
“All in all, you may think Burrell’s behavior has been pretty shabby,” Lord Justice Scott Baker told the jury as he concluded the official inquiry into the death of Diana and her lover Dodi al-Fayed in a Paris car crash in 1997.
Burrell, the butler who called himself “Diana’s Rock”, faced a three-day grilling from lawyers when he appeared at the inquest in January. He was repeatedly asked how much he really knew about secrets he was supposed to have held for Diana.
In February, Scott Baker asked Burrell to return to court to explain discrepancies between his evidence and comments attributed to him in a tabloid newspaper, but he refused.
“It was blindingly obvious wasn’t it, that the evidence that he gave in this courtroom was not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” Scott Baker said on Tuesday.
In a scathing reference to Burrell’s emotionally charged testimony, he told the jury: “I advise you to proceed with caution especially when and if you are left with the impression that he only told you what he wanted you to hear.”
The coroner was summing up to the jury after they had heard from more than 250 witnesses over the past six months in an inquest into Diana’s death.
Harrods’ owner Mohamed Al-Fayed, Dodi’s father, fought a long legal battle to have the inquest heard by a judge and jury. Under British law, an inquest is needed to determine the cause of death when someone dies unnaturally.
The inquest was delayed for 10 years because Britain had to wait for the French legal process and then a British police investigation to run their course before it could begin.
Both police inquiries decided it was a tragic accident because chauffeur Henri Paul was drunk and driving too fast.
Tuesday’s proceedings were held up for two hours after the court received a last-minute e-mail from France referring to a possible sample from Paul, who died at the wheel of the speeding Mercedes which was being pursued by paparazzi.
But the judge resumed after an extensive break, telling the jury without going into any detail “The problem has been solved. There is nothing to be concerned about.”
On Monday, the opening day of his presentation to the jury, the judge dismissed conspiracy theories held by Mohamed al-Fayed, father of Dodi.
Al-Fayed had claimed Diana and his son were killed by British security services on the orders of Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip, because the royal family did not want the mother of the future king to have a child with Dodi al-Fayed.
The 11-member jury is due to be sent out on Wednesday to consider their decision after the judge finishes his summing up. They have five verdicts to choose from.
They can opt for unlawful killing through gross negligence by the chauffeur, by “following vehicles” or by both.
The other two alternatives are accidental death or an open verdict if the jury felt there was not enough evidence to support any substantive verdict.
(For full coverage of the inquest visit here)
Editing by Mary Gabriel