Moments in Time

The Letter

Death of Diana Princess of Wales, August 1997

Ten months before Princess Diana was killed, she wrote a letter to her butler, Paul Burrell, saying she feared she would be killed in a car crash. Diana told Burrell that the letter should be used as "insurance" for the future.

Diana, together with her boyfriend Dodi Fayed, son of Harrods owner Mohammed Al-Fayed and Henri Paul, a driver for the Fayed family, were killed on 31 August 1997 when the vehicle they were travelling in smashed into a pillar in the Pont d'Alma tunnel in Paris. An inquiry in 1999 by French police said that Paul had taken a "cocktail of drugs and drink" before he lost control of the Mercedes. Since then, several conspiracy theories have emerged that simply won't go away, and Burrel's revelation added to the debate.

The information concerning Diana's fears first appeared in Burrell's book, A Royal Duty, which he says provides an acceptable overview of a very public couple. "I became the repository for royal truths," Burrell said. Critics say he should have released the letter years earlier to the French police force to help with its inquiry.

Many people in the UK still believe Diana was murdered and that a renegade organisation in the UK had meticulously plotted her end. There have even been suggestions MI6, Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), was behind the deed. There is scant evidence for this, though chauffeur, Henri Paul, an employee of the Ritz Hotel in Paris, was an agent of MI6. It is also true that a series of bizarre occurrences combined to leave Diana dead. The Burrell letter only adds to the conspiracy. At the time, renegade former MI6 officer Richard Tomlinson also said SIS "had the means kill Princess Diana by faking a car crash." He pointed out that in 1992, for example, they planned to kill President Milosevic by using a fake car crash in Geneva. Such actions are called Stagecraft in the language of spies, and is explored further in Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine's forthcoming issue 111 (September 2017).

As for the letter, in October 1996 Diana wrote: " planning 'an accident' in my car, brake failure and serious head injury in order to make the path clear for Charles to marry".


At the time of her writing the letter, Diana's relationship with Charles was all but over. Believing plans were afoot to watch her every move, she even ordered a sweep of her apartments in Kensington Palace for bugs. On another occasion, she demanded that a mirror be removed from her living room because she was fearful MI5 was using a beam fired at the mirror to listen in to her comments. Anxiety and paranoia had clearly set in and she even told friends that she would one day be in a helicopter blown up by MI5, though few believed her.

In an ITN survey, one in two respondents thought there had been a cover-up in relation to Diana's death. Three quarters of those suspected the involvement of British Intelligence, and over half said their suspicions fell on members of the Royal family.

At the same time of Tenet's departure, Tony Blair appointed John Scarlett, 55, head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, to succeed Sir Richard Dearlove as head of MI6 on 1 August 2004. The JIC is a body which includes all the chiefs of all the intelligence agencies, and was responsible for what became known as the 'dodgy Iraq WMD dossier'.

PHOTO LOWER RIGHT: MI6 agent Henri Paul (right) and bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones look concerned as the Mercedes carrying Princess Diana and her lover Dodi Fayed (rear of vehicle), attempt to flee the Paparazzi. Minutes later the vehicle crashed in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris



Previous 'Moments in Time'

Resignation of George Tenet
Flight 77 The Pentagon Crash
The Assassination of CIA Man Richard Welch
The Yeti Conspiracy and the CIA
Checkpoint Charlie's Bay of Pig's
George Blake Escapes from Prison