Diana's Butler Facing Trial for Theft

ByABC News
October 3, 2002, 7:01 PM

Oct. 4 -- A disgraced aide, a media melee the latest royal scandal may have some familiar elements, but Paul Burrell is not your average servant. He is Princess Diana's longtime butler, and he is accused of stealing more than 300 of her personal items including designer dresses, intimate family photos, even letters to Prince William from "Mummy."

Authorities say the items were found in Burrell's home in a predawn raid last year. (Click here for a full list of the items.) The discovery shocked even jaded royal-watchers because Burrell was supposed to be beyond reproach.

The Princess of Wales trusted Paul Burrell. She called him her "rock," said Andrew Shaw, Burrell's attorney.

"We will fight this case. We will require the true witnesses to give direct evidence," Shaw said.

The Best Soap Opera in Town

With the trial slated to begin this month, Burrell and his attorney seem ready to rock the foundations of the monarchy. It's those "true witnesses" and their revelations that could make this trial an international sensation. While it's no longer considered likely that Prince Charles and Prince William will be called as witnesses, Diana's mother and sister are expected to take the stand to testify against Burrell.

"This is actually like the best soap opera in town," said Majesty magazine editor Ingrid Seward, who is among the professional palace-watchers eagerly anticipating the royal fireworks.

"On one side you've got the royal family, the Spencers, and the police, and the people that really don't like Burrell all out to get him. On the other side you've got Diana's friends, who see him as a very charming man who totally devoted his life to the princess," Seward said.

Unlike so many of Diana's aides, friends, even lovers, the 44-year-old Burrell has never sold his stories about the late princess. His silence makes this prosecution seem even more unusual.

There's a long history of servants taking from their masters. Usually, according to Seward, the royals turn "a blind eye" to this. She says she can't recall a single person going to trial for it.