Princess ‘may have been murdered over landmine file’

If Diana, Princess of Wales, was murdered it could have been because of a fat dossier she had built up on the manufacture and distribution of landmines, it was suggested at her inquest yesterday.

Simone Simmons, who described herself as a complementary therapist specialising in energy healing and a close friend of the Princess, told the hearing that the Princess had assembled a 6in-thick file on the subject, and that she had been “rounded on” after a visit to landmine victims in Angola.

Ms Simmons related how the Princess had invited her to listen in to a telephone call at Kensington Palace from Nicholas Soames, the Conservative MP and a friend of the Prince of Wales. “This person was saying that she shouldn’t interfere in matters she knows nothing about, then said ‘accidents can happen’,” Ms Simmons told the inquest jury.

Ms Simmons suggested that interests representing Britain’s defence industry had been intent on stopping the Princess’s campaign to ban the manufacture and use of landmines, which “quite possibly” could have been behind a plot to kill her. She had had secret meetings with Tony Blair when he was in opposition; he had promised to make her a roving antilandmines ambassador when he came to power, Ms Simmons said.

The phone call had caused the Princess great concern, Ms Simmons claimed. But in cross-examination Richard Horwell, QC, for the Metropolitan Police, asked why, if it was so important, Ms Simmons had made no mention of it in the first of her two books about the Princess. Ms Simmons claimed the book had been “heavily edited” at the insistence of lawyers.

She also claimed that the Princess had shown her two letters from the Duke of Edinburgh, one handwritten and one typed, written in 1994 and 1995, that made cruel and derogatory remarks about her conduct. The two women were studying a book on graphology, and the Princess produced a file of letters from members of the Royal Family with the intention of analysing the handwriting of the Prince of Wales.They could make nothing of it. “It was like a spider had stepped in the inkwell and then crawled across the paper,” Ms Simmons said. The Princess then pointed out two letters from Prince Philip that had upset her.

“Diana read one out to me; she was furious and she was imitating the voice of the Duke of Edinburgh.” Asked by Michael Mansfield, QC, for Mohamed Al Fayed, father of Dodi, if it would be correct to say that the letter was extremely derogatory, she replied: “Yes, and very cruel as well.”

The inquests have heard contradictory evidence suggesting that the Duke was a kind and concerned father-in-law at the time of the Princess’s marriage break-up in 1992.

Mr Horwell pointed out that her physical description of the letters, which were not quoted, did not tally with the size and colour of notepaper that Prince Philip used.

Asked by Mr Horwell how much she had earned from her two books, Ms Simmons replied: “Not as much as you earn here in a week.” Mr Horwell suggested she address the remark to “the other side of the court”, occupied by Mr Al Fayed’s legal team.

She was followed into the witness box by Michael Cole, Mr Al Fayed’s spokesman, who had to be restrained on several occasions from talking too much and anticipating questions that Nicholas Hilliard, counsel for the inquest, might ask him. Mr Hilliard put it to Mr Cole that in the early days after the Paris crash Mr Al Fayed never mentioned the Princess being pregnant – or marriage, death plots or the Duke of Edinburgh. “It was a family matter,” Mr Cole replied. The hearings continue.