The senior member of the Royal family who Diana, Princess of Wales, believed was plotting to kill her in a car crash was named today.
Diana’s butler Paul Burrell, who received the letter containing the allegation, condemned the decision by the Daily Mirror to reveal the name.
The newspaper published the details on the day inquests into the deaths of the princess and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed in a Paris car crash in 1997 were being formally opened.
The letter, written ten months before the crash, was included in a book by Mr Burrell last year.
Penguin, the book’s publishers, and the Daily Mirror, which serialised A Royal Duty, blanked out the name at the time.
The relevant passage read: “** ******* is planning ‘an accident’ in my car, brake failure and serious head injury...”
But the Daily Mirror today revealed what it claimed was the identity of the person named by Diana in the letter.
The newspaper said Mr Burrell was prepared to hand over the letter to Royal coroner Michael Burgess, who was opening the inquests.
The newspaper said it had “decided to publish the blanked out name because it will inevitably appear in the public domain”.
But Mr Burrell condemned the move.
Speaking to Sky News outside his home in Farndon, Cheshire, he said: “I’m not happy about it. I only learned about it late last night and it was always my intention never to publish that name. I never ever wanted it to be published.”
Mirror editor Piers Morgan said he was made aware in the last 24 hours by Mr Burrell that the coroner, Michael Burgess, had formally approached him twice for the letter.
He said Mr Burrell had indicated that he would be handing it over.
He said the letter was not going to be censored and therefore the information was going to go into the public domain for the inquest.
“At that point I think any newspaper that was aware of this kind of information has a duty to publish it and the situation changed.
He added: “This morning Paul Burrell was not aware of what we were doing. I knew he would not be very happy about it because he has always tried to keep this information suppressed.
“But I am afraid if a letter goes to a coroner for an inquest containing this kind of information it will come out.”
He said the letter was “utterly sensational”.
“Is it preposterous? Probably. I just don’t know.
“What I do know is that thankfully we finally have an inquest where perhaps we can finally lay to rest all these conspiracy theories.”
Asked if he expected the senior royal concerned to sue him, Mr Morgan said: “I do not think suing is going to solve anything.”
Dodi Fayed’s father Mohamed al Fayed has waited more than six years for the first official public hearings in Britain into the deaths of the couple in the Pont d’Alma underpass in Paris.
The inquests were being formally opened at separate venues before being adjourned.
The full inquest hearings are not expected to take place for several months.
It is hoped the inquests could eventually shed light on the flurry of conspiracy theories surrounding the events of August 31, 1997.
Speculation that the couple were murdered by MI6 has circulated for years with Mr al Fayed, insisting they were assassinated by the British secret service.
The Harrods owner was due to attend both of today’s hearings with his legal team, including barrister Michael Mansfield QC.
Other conspiracy rumours centre on claims the princess was pregnant when she died, with a senior French police source recently speaking out in support of the theory.
Diana, 36, and 42-year-old Ehmad Fayed, nicknamed Dodi, were killed along with chauffeur Henri Paul when their Mercedes crashed in a tunnel on August 31, 1997.
They were being pursued by photographers as they took the short trip from the Ritz Hotel to Mr Fayed’s Paris apartment.
A two-year French investigation led by Judge Herve Stephan blamed Paul for losing control of the car while high on drink and drugs and driving too fast.
Trevor Rees Jones, the princess’s personal bodyguard, was the only survivor and can recall little of the crash.
Diana’s inquest was opening at 10.30am in the Fleming Room of the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in Westminster, London, amid intense press interest.
The opening of Dodi’s inquest will take place at 3pm in Wray Park, Reigate, Surrey, near where he lived and is buried.
Mr Burgess, who presides over both hearings in his roles as Coroner of the Queen’s Household and for the county of Surrey, has indicated he will speak on the purpose of the inquests, how they may be expected to be conducted and the nature and scope of evidence he expects to receive.
The inquests’ lengthy delays follow the French investigation and a spate of courtroom battles launched by Mr al Fayed.
The Egyptian-born millionaire attempted and failed to overturn Judge Stephan’s ruling that manslaughter charges against paparazzi photographers and a press motorcyclist following the car should be dismissed.
His campaign at the Court of Session in Edinburgh for a public inquiry in Scotland into the deaths is still being considered.
In July 2000, he also lost a High Court case in which he called for Diana and Dodi’s inquests to be held together.
The Princess’s brother, Earl Spencer, is not expected to attend the hearing today nor will any member of the royal family.
Clarence House said it did not anticipate that representatives of the royal household would be present to monitor the proceedings.
However, a spokeswoman said: “The Prince of Wales and both Princes William and Harry are very pleased that the inquest is finally under way.”
Diana’s sister, Lady Jane Fellowes, was among the first to arrive for the opening of the inquest.
She arrived in a chauffeur-driven silver Mercedes.
But by 9am today, only two members of the public were queuing for the inquest.