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Butler: Mother called Diana 'whore'

  • Story Highlights
  • Paul Burrell, Princess Diana's former butler, gives evidence at inquest
  • Describes phone call in which Diana's mother called her daughter"a whore"
  • Burrell says Queen Elizabeth's husband was not involved in Diana's death
  • Also claims that Diana told him: "I need marriage like a bad rash"
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Princess Diana's relationships with two Muslim men provoked an outburst from her mother, who called her daughter "a whore", Paul Burrell, the princess's former butler, told an inquest Monday.

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Diana once referred to her former butler Paul Burrell as "my rock."

Burrell, who returned to Britain from his home in Florida to give evidence, was the first star witness of the London inquest, now in its fourth month.

His role as confidant to Diana, who died in a Paris car crash on August 31, 1997, along with her boyfriend Dodi Fayed and hotel security chief Henri Paul, meant his testimony was eagerly anticipated.

Burrell, whom the late princess once called "my rock," cast doubt on whether Diana was ready to marry Fayed. According to Burrell, the princess was still "holding a candle" for former boyfriend and heart surgeon Hasnat Khan -- who she called "her soulmate" -- when she started dating Fayed "on the rebound."

Burrell told the inquest that Diana asked him to listen in on a conversation in June 1997 with her mother, Frances Shand Kydd, who died in 2004 and who was critical of her relationship with Muslim men.

"She called the princess a 'whore' and she said that she was messing around with 'effing Muslim men' and she was 'disgraceful' and said some very nasty things," Burrell said. He agreed that, as a result of such calls Diana, decided not to talk to her mother again.

The inquest, which began in October and is expected to last another two or three months, aims to uncover the facts surrounding the deaths of the Princess and Dodi and determine their cause of death -- whether by accident or otherwise.

Asked earlier in the day if he believed that Fayed was "the one," Burrell said "no, I did not have that impression." He also cast doubt on claims that Fayed and Diana were engaged or on the cusp of engagement, saying: "I find that difficult to believe."

Asked to explain himself, Burrell said: "Because this was only a 30-day relationship and the princess had just finished a long-term relationship with someone (Khan) she cared deeply about. I knew that because I was there and I saw it."

Diana's 18-month relationship with Khan ended around the same time she started seeing Fayed in July 1997. Burrell said Diana had asked him at one point to investigate how a private wedding with Khan might take place, given that Khan is Muslim. Video Watch report on claims about Diana's marriage plans. »

Khan had not proposed to the princess, Burrell said, adding that Khan was "the man she loved more than any other." He said he spoke to Diana about the possibility that Fayed would give her a ring shortly before her death.

Burrell said he suggested to the princess that she wear it on the fourth finger of her right hand, rather than the left, as is customary with engagement rings. "I need marriage like a bad rash," Burrell claimed Diana told him.

Last month at the inquest Lady Annabel Goldsmith, a friend of Diana, said the princess had remarked that she needed another marriage "like a rash on my face."

Burrell also indicated that the ring was not an engagement ring, as the Fayed family has maintained. Fayed family spokesman Michael Cole testified last week that Dodi's father, Mohamed Al Fayed, was certain the couple had planned to marry.

Lawyers at the inquest asked Burrell whether he knew whether a special announcement had been planned for the Monday following the fatal car crash. There has been speculation the couple planned to announce special news, such as an engagement.

But Burrell said he knew nothing of such a plan. He said he had actually looked at Diana's schedule for that day and found only mundane items, and nothing to indicate she planned a special announcement.

Burrell also told the inquest he did not believe Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth's, husband was involved in Diana's death.

Mohamed Al Fayed, father of Dodi and the owner of Harrods department store, has long claimed that senior members of the royal family -- specifically the queen's husband, Prince Philip -- ordered the pair be murdered. He also claims that Diana was pregnant at the time of her death.

But Burrell said that he knew Prince Philip very well and that he could not have been behind the deaths.

"I can tell you that is not Prince Philip's nature, " he said. "Plus the princess was the mother of his grandchildren. Why would he want to harm her? It's not possible."

The inquest has seen and heard about correspondence which Prince Philip sent to Diana, with some witnesses claiming that he wrote cruel and hurtful letters. But other correspondence shown to the jury appeared to be friendly and was affectionately signed, "Pa."

Burrell explained that Philip could sometimes come across as terse because he says what he thinks.

"Prince Philip doesn't mix his words," Burrell said. "He says it as it is, but he is not a nasty man. Prince Philip isn't known for his diplomacy. He was fond of the princess."

Burrell worked for the British royals for 21 years and became close to Diana after her separation from Prince Charles. He has written two books about his time with the princess.

In his second book, Burrell told of a letter from Diana which indicated she feared for her life. The princess wrote that Prince Charles planned "'an accident' in my car, brake failure and serious head injury."

One of Diana's close friends, however, testified last month that she believed the letter could have been forged. Lucia Flecha de Lima said on December 18 that Burrell was capable of imitating the princess's handwriting.

Lawyers questioned Burrell about the date of the letter. Burrell said it was written in October 1996, two months, after Diana and Charles divorced -- yet the letter refers to Charles as "my husband."

Burrell responded that Diana always referred to Charles that way, even after the divorce.

The inquest has revealed that Diana was a prolific letter-writer who also received a lot of correspondence. Witnesses, including Burrell, recall that the princess kept the letters in her desk, with the more important ones stored in a special box.

Burrell testified that after Diana's death, her mother, Frances Shand-Kidd, worked every day for a week shredding the papers from Diana's desk. He said he expressed concern about the shredding during a meeting he had with the queen on December 19, 1997.

It was at this meeting that Queen Elizabeth told Burrell: "There are powers at work in this country about which we have no knowledge." That comment, which has been widely reported, was meant to warn him to be careful, Burrell said, and was not a warning about any one person or group of people.

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At the same meeting Burrell also told the queen that he had taken some of Diana's belongings to keep safe.

The details of the conversation emerged when Burrell stood trial for their alleged theft in 2002, causing the case against him to collapse. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Emily Chang and Heidi Berger contributed to this report.

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