- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 2, 2002

LONDON The trial of Princess Diana's former butler on theft charges collapsed yesterday after Queen Elizabeth II confirmed that the butler had told her at a private audience that, for safekeeping, he was holding on to some of Diana's possessions that he was accused of stealing from her estate.
"The queen has come through for me," sobbed Paul Burrell, who broke down in tears when he was declared not guilty of all three charges of stealing items worth an estimated $7 million from the late princess, ex-husband Prince Charles and their elder son, Prince William.
Police accused the 44-year-old ex-butler, whom Diana once described as "my rock," of stealing 312 items, ranging from letters and photographs to jewelry, clothes, hats, records, cassettes and furniture from her Kensington Palace home in London during the months before and after her death in a high-speed car crash in Paris five years ago.
After a police investigation that cost an estimated $2.3 million, the trial that was expected to last six weeks came to a premature halt on its 12th day when Buckingham Palace confirmed yesterday that the queen had listened to Mr. Burrell tell her that he intended to hold onto some of Diana's possessions, including letters, for safekeeping.
ITN Television quoted palace sources as saying the queen was traveling with her son and heir-apparent, Prince Charles, to a memorial service at St. Paul's Cathedral in London for the victims of the terrorist bomb attack in Bali when she mentioned the audience with Mr. Burrell at which he asked if he could keep some of Diana's papers.
The sources said Prince Charles suggested this information might be relevant to the trial. The queen; her husband, Prince Philip; and Prince Charles decided the police should be told.
That came as a shock to the prosecutors, and it ruined their case. Chief Prosecutor William Boyce told the Old Bailey criminal court, "The prosecution has concluded that the current trial is no longer viable because it has proceeded on the false premise that Mr. Burrell had never told anyone he was holding anything for safekeeping."
Mr. Boyce added that "the prosecution have formed the view that there would no longer be a realistic prospect of conviction of this case" and that it was giving up. "The only appropriate course is to offer no further evidence against Mr. Burrell."
The unexpected outcome was likely to have come as a relief to Prince Charles and Prince William, who had made it clear from the start, through leaks to friendly journalists, that they opposed the prosecution of Mr. Burrell.
But after the 11-month investigation by police, the prosecution decided to go ahead with the trial, and indicated it intended to summon Diana's mother and executor of her estate, Frances Shand Kydd, and her sister, Sarah McCorquodale, to testify against the former butler.
Outside the court after Mr. Burrell was cleared, his attorney, Andrew Shaw, said the case had been a 21-month "terrible ordeal" for his client.
"The evidence in the trial has shown up many mistakes on the part of the police," he added.
"It is to his utmost credit and typical" of Mr. Burrell, Mr. Shaw told reporters, "that it was only this week that he instructed his lawyers as to the full terms of the conversation" he had held with the queen.
"Those terms were confirmed by the queen this morning."
Mr. Burrell said simply: "I am thrilled. I am thrilled."

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