The Queen and Prince Philip will not have to answer questions from Mohamed Fayed about Diana, Princess of Wales, “at this stage”, a coroner decided yesterday.
Lord Justice Scott Baker, who will be holding the inquests later this year into the deaths of the princess and her companion Dodi Fayed, was responding to a request from a lawyer representing the Harrods owner.
Michael Mansfield, QC, for Mr Fayed, wanted the Queen to be asked about a conversation she allegedly had with the former royal butler Paul Burrell, in which she was said to have mentioned “other forces, powers at work within the state”.
Mr Mansfield told the coroner: “At this stage we ask that Her Majesty be approached as a witness or potential witness to see if this material is right.”
Counsel said the Metropolitan Police had not asked the Queen about these matters as part of Operation Paget.
Mr Mansfield also raised questions about letters allegedly sent to the princess by Prince Philip.
“Obvious inquiries are, firstly, whether he was aware of any of the fears she has expressed and, two, whether he did send letters of the kind described in the Paget report.
“One witness called them nasty letters,” Mr Mansfield said. “Were any of the letters returned to him?”
Counsel now understood that the prince had indicated, in a telephone message, his “unwillingness” to speak to the Paget inquiry into the deaths.
Mr Mansfield told the coroner: “You may be able to approach him on behalf of the inquest and inquiry into truth.”
But Lord Justice Scott Baker, sitting as assistant deputy coroner for Westminster, said: “It doesn’t seem to me that any further inquiries at this stage would be appropriate or necessary. Obviously, I will keep the position under review as we proceed to the hearing.”
It emerged yesterday that the original note sent to Mr Burrell by the princess in which she claimed “my husband is planning an accident in my car” had finally been obtained for the inquest.
The letter was written on five sheets of paper, covering all 10 sides. But Mr Mansfield said there was reason to believe that there may have been an additional covering sheet, which was now missing. He asked if the first page could be tested for indentations using electrostatic document analysis. The so-called ESDA test helped clear the Birmingham Six in 1991.
Lord Justice Scott Baker is planning to open the inquests in October, more than 10 years after the princess and Dodi Fayed were killed in a Paris car crash. The Harrods owner claims that the princess was pregnant with his son’s child and that they were murdered in an establishment plot masterminded by the Duke of Edinburgh.
Lord Justice Scott Baker said the inquests, before a jury, must be completed within six months. For that to happen, the various expert witnesses will have to meet in advance and agree on their evidence where possible.
Since there is limited seating in the courtroom at the Royal Courts of Justice reserved for the hearing, a temporary annexe will be made in a courtyard with seats for 300 members of the press and public.
The next preliminary hearing will be on July 27.
• Prince Harry started training this week with the Gurkhas while he waits for his own troops to return from Iraq, it emerged yesterday.
The cavalry officer, more used to the interior of a Scimitar tank, is said to be marching over the Brecon Beacons on a four-day exercise.
He will be in the company of the Royal Gurkha Rifles who have a reputation as the Army’s most fearsome fighters.