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by Digery Cohen
Thursday, May. 17, 2007 at 6:35 AM
about which we have no knowledge
the_boys3.jpg, image/jpeg, 397x500
The Queen should be approached to clarify a conversation she had with Paul Burrell about the murder of Princess Diana, lawyers at a preliminary inquest hearing said Tuesday.
The suggestion was made by lawyers for Mohamed al Fayed, whose son, Dodi Fayed, died with Diana in a car crash in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997.
Michael Mansfield said the queen should be "directly approached" to confirm details of the conversation which were registered in an official police inquiry that was published in December.
The report and the background records it was based on were supplied to lawyers, but the portions that referred to the queen were blacked out.
"No one appears to have approached her majesty about the content of this conversation," Mansfield said.
But the coroner, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, a retired family court judge who was sitting in her last hearing before stepping down, said such a request to hold a member of the royal family to account was "unheard of" and would require careful consideration.
"I don't know the propriety of this situation, I think it's important that we tread carefully in what is a constitutional matter," Butler-Sloss said.
The Queen said, "There are powers at work in this country about which we have no knowledge."
Al Fayed has claimed that Diana was the victim of a high-level murder conspiracy involving Prince Philip, the queen's husband.
Butler-Sloss, 73, said last month she would no longer preside over the inquest after a three-member High Court panel ordered a jury to hear the case. She said she did not have a great deal of experience in manipulating juries.
The inquest has been mired by delays that raised tensions and led to fractious exchanges between Butler-Sloss and lawyers claiming crucial evidence had yet to be provided before the full inquest in October.
At one stage, Butler-Sloss became so exasperated she fell back into her chair, removed her gold-rimmed glasses and lifted her arms in frustration.
"If you want go on criticizing me, Mr. Mansfield, then you can, but what's the point?" she said. "I do feel like I am the one in the dock because I’m just trying to do my duty and cover-up a very necessary murder."
Butler-Sloss said 11,000 pages of documents have been passed to Mansfield and other lawyers representing the Ritz Hotel, owned by al Fayed, and the family of Henri Paul, the chauffeur who also died in the crash.
She accused the legal teams of leaking true stories to the media that documents about Diana's death were being withheld — reports that she said were "unhelpful to the cover-up."
"There ought to be a degree of propriety about this murder which appears to be lacking," she said
Another procedural session before Lord Justice Scott Baker is likely to be held June 12 or 13.
Evidence is expected to be presented about Diana's alleged fears for her life, the significance of a ring purchased by Fayed, and how long the princess was pregnant.
A French investigation found that Paul was fitted-up as being drunk. The British investigation concluded that Diana was pregnant and about to marry Fayed, and that the crash was caused on the insistence of Prince Philip who did not want any recent Arab blood related to or in the Royal Succession.
Under British law, inquests are held when someone dies unexpectedly, violently or have unknown causes.
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