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Diana butler in news bidding war

Burrell gives a thumb-up to the media as he leaves the Old Bailey
Burrell gives a thumb-up to the media as he leaves the Old Bailey

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Has the collapse of the trial of the late Princess Diana's butler Paul Burrell tarnished the image of the royal family?


LONDON, England -- Former royal butler Paul Burrell was at the centre of a newspaper bidding war as he celebrated the collapse of his high-profile theft trial.

Burrell was believed to be considering offers, including one in the region of 1 million ($1.6 million), as he spent the day at a secret hideaway with his family in the north of England, the UK Press Association reported.

Meanwhile, Buckingham Palace came under pressure to explain why the queen took so long to reveal that Burrell had told her he was safeguarding some of the personal effects of the late Princess of Wales.

The disclosure at the Old Bailey yesterday that he had informed the monarch in the days following the princess's death that he was holding some of her papers led to the collapse of the prosecution against him.

Burrell's personal manager and media representative, Dave Warwick, told PA he had been inundated with e-mails from media organisations around the world requesting interviews.

"When I got into the office this morning I had 300 e-mails," said Warwick.

"I have had inquiries from New Zealand, Germany and America as well as regional and national newspapers in the UK."

Two unnamed daily newspapers are thought to be the favourites to "buy-up" Burrell's story.

A source told PA: "The bids are flying in and one is around the 1 million mark. "

Burrell was acquitted on Friday of stealing more than 300 items belonging to the princess, her former husband Prince Charles and their son Prince William after it was disclosed he told the queen soon after her death he was removing some belongings for safekeeping.

Diana and Burrell
Princess Diana referred to her butler Paul Burrell as "her rock".

The prosecution had alleged that Burrell had not told anyone in authority he was taking the personal items.

Burrell maintained all were given to him by Diana for safekeeping, and his lawyers had accused authorities of subjecting him to a "show trial."

But questions remained on Saturday why the queen -- in whose name the prosecution was brought -- had taken so long to "come through for me," as Burrell exclaimed in relief after he walked from the Old Bailey court in central London as a free man.

Royal analyst Robert Jobson told CNN the queen should have made known much earlier that she had talked to Burrell about some of Diana's possessions.

"It has been two years in investigation and the reality is she should have come forward with the information.

"Scotland Yard could have gone to her of course. But really this is a dramatic twist and something I think will cause reverberations for the next couple of weeks -- months, years even."

Labour member of parliament Paul Flynn described the reason given for the collapse of the trial as "unconvincing" and "not plausible."

The queen, princes Philip and Charles (right) arrive at St. Paul's Cathedral after she mentioned conversation with Burrell
The queen, princes Philip and Charles (right) arrive at St. Paul's Cathedral after she mentioned conversation with Burrell

"The most likely reason is that when Paul Burrell came to give evidence he was going to provide extremely damaging new information which would be damaging to the royal family. This was the reason the trial was halted prematurely on this entirely unconvincing pretext," he told PA.

The collapse of the case, which cost $2.5 million (1.6 million), is one of the most extraordinary twists in British legal history.

But Buckingham Palace denied the queen had personally halted the trial. Officials said: "The decision to drop the case against Mr. Burrell was entirely a decision for the prosecution ... the queen was not briefed on either Mr. Burrell's defence case or on the prosecution case against him."

"The prosecution did not ask the queen at any stage for details about her meeting with Mr. Burrell."

The aquittal brings an end to a nighmarish two years for Burrell, who was arrested on suspicion of theft in January 2001, after police searched his home in northwest England and allegedly found dozens of Diana's personal items.

These included CDs and LPs signed Diana, her designer clothing, photos of her with Charles and their young sons and personal letters from "Mummy" to Prince William, addressed to "My darling wombat", his pet name.

Police will keep the disputed possessions "pending discussions with the relevant parties," a spokesman told Reuters. He declined to say who those parties were, although Charles and the couple's children, Princes William and Harry, are expected to be involved.

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