Diana, Princess of Wales told her solicitors of a plot to tamper with her car so it would crash and “get rid of her” or leave her “unbalanced”, the inquest into her death heard on Tuesday.
A note of the meeting was given to British police officers within days of her death in a car crash in 1997, but they did not pass on the document to their French counterparts.
The existence of the note, made by Lord Mishcon, head of law firm Mishcon de Reya, was only revealed six years later, after the Princess’s former butler Paul Burrell published a letter in which the Princess made a similar claim.
In a heated courtroom exchange, Michael Mansfield QC, representing Mohamed Fayed, whose son Dodi died alongside the Princess, suggested to Sir David Veness, a former Metropolitan Police commander, that his officers had “sat on” the note because he knew that “the security services or agents of the British state” had murdered the Princess “and you didn’t want this investigated”.
Mr Veness said he “rejected completely” any suggestion that the Princess was murdered, but admitted the note was “potentially relevant” to the investigations into the Princess’s death.
Mohamed Fayed believes his son and the Princess were murdered by MI6 on the orders of Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, to prevent them marrying.
The Princess raised her fears about a plot to kill her during an extraordinary meeting with Lord Mishcon and two of his staff, Maggie Rae and Sandra Davis, during a meeting at Kensington Palace in October 1995.
Lord Mishcon, who was in ill health at the time and has since died, visited the Princess to introduce her to the two partners who were to take over the Princess’s legal work from him.
During the meeting the Princess also said she believed the Queen was about to abdicate in favour of the Charles, Prince of Wales and that Tiggy Legge Bourke, the former Royal nanny whom she believed the Prince wanted to marry, had had “an abortion”.
Lord Mishcon was so concerned about what the Princess had said that he made a full note of the conversation, which was read to the jury at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
He wrote: “Her Royal Highness said that she had been informed by reliable sources, whom she did not want to reveal, as they would very quickly dry up if she did, that: A: The Queen would be abdicating in April and the Prince of Wales would then be assuming the throne, and B: Efforts would then be made, if not to get rid of her, be it by some accident in her car, such as prepared brake failure or whatever, between now and then, at least to see that she was so injured or damaged as to be declared ‘unbalanced’.
“She was convinced that there was a conspiracy and that she and Camilla Parker Bowles were to be put aside.
“She had also been told that Miss Legge Bourke had been operated on for an abortion and that she, HRH, would soon be in receipt of ‘a certificate’.
“I told HRH that if she really believed her life was being threatened, security measures, including those on her car, must be increased.”
Lord Mishcon set up a meeting with the Princess’s private secretary Patrick Jephson, who said he “half believed” what the Princess said.
Miss Rae said: “It was very clear in my own mind that she thought she was going to be killed.” But she admitted the lawyers did not take Princess Diana’s fears entirely seriously and did not inform the police at the time.
Lord Mishcon gave his note of the meeting to the Metropolitan Police on Sept 18, 1997, less than three weeks after the fatal car crash.
But Sir David Veness, who was formerly in charge of the Royalty and Diplomatic Protection Group, said he did not pass on the note to his French counterparts because there was no evidence at the time that the crash was anything more than a tragic accident.
Mr Mansfield said: “It didn’t need Sherlock Holmes, you don’t need to be experienced in the job, that once Lord Mishcon walks through the door on the 18th of September, you knew that this was relevant, didn’t you?”
Mr Veness said the note was “potentially relevant”, but nothing was done about it until 2003, after another note, written by the Princess to Paul Burrell in October 1995, was published in a newspaper.
The Princess said in the note that: “My husband is planning an accident in my car, brake failure and serious head injury.”
The day after the Burrell letter appeared in a newspaper, Lord Mishcon rang the police to remind them of the existence of his own note. The police responded by passing on the note to the coroner investigating the Princess’s death.
Mr Mansfield said: “I’m going to put it to you bluntly: This note would never have seen the light of day unless Paul Burrell had published his (note) and you suddenly all realized you’ve got a problem?”
Mr Veness said: “No. With regard to the future hearings there would have been a review, and it would have been pertinent to consider it in any discussions with the coroner.”
Mr Mansfield: “Were you just sitting on this note because you knew full well that the security services or agents of the British state, maverick or otherwise, had been involved and you didn’t want this investigated?”
Mr Veness said he “rejected completely” that suggestion.
The coroner, Lord Justice Scott Baker, asked whether it had been relevant to Mr Veness that: “Since the note had been written in October 1995 the Queen hadn’t abdicated, Camilla hadn’t been put aside, and until the tragic collision in August 1997, neither had Diana?”
Mr Veness said: “Yes, that was of relevance.”