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Monday, 21 October, 2002, 19:15 GMT 20:15 UK
Diana 'kept Hewitt's ring'
Paul Burrell
Mr Burrell worked for Diana up until her death
Diana, Princess of Wales kept a signet ring belonging to her former lover James Hewitt in a locked box in her sitting room, the trial of her former butler Paul Burrell has heard.

The item was deemed so sensitive by police it was initially not identified in open court but details about it were written on a piece of paper and handed to the judge, Mrs Justice Rafferty.

James Hewitt
Mr Hewitt's ring was not found at Mr Burrell's home

Mr Burrell, 44, denies stealing 310 items from Diana, the Prince of Wales and Prince William.

Detective Sergeant Roger Milburn had told the court on Friday that police had been asked to establish the whereabouts of the contents of a wooden box containing some of Diana's most confidential possessions.

Among those items was a "very sensitive" piece of jewellery.

On Monday the judge decided it could be revealed as a ring worn by former cavalry officer Mr Hewitt.

Keys found

Mr Milburn was one of the officers who raided Mr Burrell's Cheshire house in January last year.

He told the court police had been asked to intervene by Diana's sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale.


The casual bystander would realise that the person living there either had royal connections or were nuts on royalty - or both

Lord Carlile QC, defending

But he said neither the ring nor other items allegedly contained in the box had been found during the 12-hour search of Mr Burrell's home.

It is alleged the box also included letters from Prince Philip, cassette tapes from a former Kensington Palace employee and a letter of resignation from Diana's former private secretary Patrick Jephson.

The court had previously heard the box was opened by Mr Burrell and Lady Sarah several weeks after Diana's death, after the keys were found in a tennis racquet cover.

Lady Sarah had asked Mr Burrell to keep the contents safe but "never saw the contents again", said William Boyce QC, prosecuting.

Memorabilia

Mr Burrell is alleged to have driven to Kensington Palace in the middle of the night following Diana's death, and loaded up his car with her possessions.

Lord Carlile QC, defending Mr Burrell, said the former butler had a "house full of royal memorabilia".

"The casual bystander would realise that the person living there either had royal connections or were nuts on royalty - or both," he said.

Artefacts in his collection included a photograph inscribed "To Paul and Maria. Fondest love, Diana" with a kiss, said Lord Carlile.

Bullwhip

There were also photographs of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and royal tours, and paintings from the Prince of Wales, signed "Charles", the court was told.

The jury also heard a bullwhip used by Harrison Ford in an Indiana Jones film had also been found.

Earl Spencer
Letters reveal a row between Diana and her brother Earl Spencer
It is not alleged Mr Burrell stole the whip - Lord Carlile said it had been presented to the Prince of Wales but later passed on to Mr Burrell.

Police developed more than 3,000 photographs from negatives allegedly found in a carrier bag at Mr Burrell's home.

But Mr Milburn said police had not found any evidence at Mr Burrell's home to indicate he had tried to sell a single photograph at home or abroad.

Lord Carlile said Mr Burrell had a "significant income" from his book on etiquette and gave speeches as well as writing a newspaper column.

Family row

He said police had briefed the Prince of Wales and Prince William about the investigation at Highgrove in August.

The strained relationship between Diana and her brother, Earl Spencer, was revealed as a series of letters were read out in court.

Lord Carlile did not explain why he read out the letters which were discovered in Mr Burrell's study.

The correspondence revealed that a bitter row broke out between the princess and her brother after he failed to help her find somewhere to live in June 1993, six months after Diana separated from the Prince of Wales.

The trial was adjourned until Tuesday.


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