Former Met Commissioner was accused of conspiracy

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Former Met Commissioner was accused of conspiracy

Postby bjr » Fri Jan 18, 2008 10:41 am ... 206883.ece

A former Metropolitan Police Commissioner was accused of criminal conspiracy as he gave evidence to the inquests of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Fayed yesterday.

Lord Condon, who as Sir Paul Condon was Britain's most senior police officer at the time of the fatal car crash in a Paris underpass, reacted angrily to the suggestion from Michael Mansfield, QC, for Mohamed Al Fayed, that he had effectively been a party to murder by keeping secret for six years a note from the Princess apparently foretelling her death.

"This is about the most serious allegation that could ever be made of someone in my position," Lord Condon said. "I totally refute it. It is disgusting. There is not an iota of truth in what Mr Mansfield is saying."

Mr Mansfield, noted for his daring and combative approach to witnesses, had suggested to Lord Condon that he had failed in his duty to hand over all relative material to Michael Burgess, the royal coroner at the time, who was expected to conduct the inquest into the Princess's death. Lord Justice Scott Baker, the coroner, interrupted Mr Mansfield and asked if he was accusing Lord Condon of criminal conspiracy, an exceedingly serious charge. Mr Mansfield said: "Yes, I am."

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He produced a letter from Mr Burgess written to the Princess's former butler, Paul Burrell, in 2003 after he had published a book quoting a similar, but separate note from the Princess suggesting that she would come to harm. In his letter, Mr Burgess had pointed out to Mr Burrell that there was a common-law duty to provide a coroner with any information or material that could be relevant to an inquest.

In what has become known as the Mishcon note, the Princess had predicted in 1995 that the Queen would abdicate the following year, Camilla Parker Bowles would be cast aside by the Prince of Wales in favour of the young royal nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke, and that she herself would be the victim of an arranged car accident.

After her death Lord Mishcon, who had been her lawyer, handed the note to the Metropolitan Police, which sat on it for six years.

"You have no proper explanation for not handing over the note to the coroner, have you?" Mr Mansfield said, before adding that the British police should have told the French authorities investigating the deaths about the letter.

Lord Condon told the hearing in the High Court that he and senior officers had decided not to release the note because of "the ongoing pain and concern that it might cause to the still-young princes, to the memory of Diana and, until the publication of Mr Burrell's book, no information had led me to believe that we should do anything with it". He said that the Princess's fears seemed to be about events that were never likely to occur, like her prediction that the Queen would abdicate in 1996.

"The easiest thing would have been to hand the note to the French, but I did not believe it would help their inquiry," Lord Condon said. "If the French had been told, this would have come into the public domain very, very quickly. And all the harm and distress that we feared would have happened."

He said that Lord Mishcon had feared that the note would be used by people who were not friendly to the Princess.

Lord Condon, who retired in 2000, nonetheless rang his successor Sir John Stevens in 2003 when Mr Burrell's book was published to ensure that Scotland Yard was still keeping the note under review. No British inquest had taken place at that stage, he pointed out.

"I do not believe that there was any involvement of any outside agency or people seeking to cause harm," Lord Condon said of the fatal crash.

Mr Al Fayed maintains that the crash was engineered by British intelligence services in a plot masterminded by the Duke of Edinburgh.

The hearing continues.
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