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EDITIONS
Monday, 2 December, 2002, 08:39 GMT
Ex-butler 'stressed' after arson attack
Paul Burrell's flower and gift shop
The interior of the shop was severely damaged by smoke
An arson investigation into a fire which damaged the north Wales florist shop owned by former royal butler Paul Burrell is continuing on Monday.

Detectives confirmed a fire which broke out at the shop in Holt, near Wrexham, in the early hours of Sunday morning, had been started deliberately.

Mr Burrell was said to be distraught and was being comforted by relatives.


Paul has upset a lot of people by selling his story so he should have half-expected something like this

Pub landlord Marco Paoloni

The family was described as being under "enormous stress" following the attack.

Mike Faux, who described himself as Mr Burrell's personal assistant, said the family was leaving the matter in the "capable hands of the police."

It has been reported that Mr Burrell is having 24-hour protection following a series of threatening phone calls prior to the arson attack.

The alarm was raised shortly before 0100 GMT when a member of the public spotted flames inside the shop in Chapel Street.

Two fire crews using breathing apparatus fought for 30 minutes to prevent flames spreading throughout the building, but the premises were badly damaged by smoke.

Mr Burrell had only returned to work in the shop two weeks before, following the sensational collapse of his trial for theft of Royal property.

Welcomed

Speaking at Wrexham Police Station, Chief Inspector Bob Wilson appealed for help from anyone who with information or who remembered seeing anything suspicious in the area.

Just a few weeks ago, residents of Holt welcomed Mr Burrell back following the collapse of the trial in which it was alleged he had stolen property from Diana, Princess of Wales.

His wife Maria, who was born and brought up in the town, was in the shop when the judgement came through.

As inquiries continued on Sunday afternoon, black plastic bin bags covered the front window of shop.

Princess of Wales
Mr Burrell took care of property on behalf of Diana, Princess of Wales

The bags hid the smoke-damaged interior from the eyes of curious sightseers, and a smashed pane of glass in the window at the side of the corner shop was boarded up.

Fire officers said an area of around 5 square metres close to the window had been damaged in the blaze, as well as gifts and Christmas decorations.

Pieces of charred debris were strewn on the pavement outside, and rubbish bags containing burned items were piled up at the back of the store.

'Concerned and upset'

A family friend said Mr Burrell was understandably upset about the incident.

"Whoever you are, whether it's Paul or anybody, if somebody does that to your place of work then you're going to be concerned and upset about it."

Mr Burrell's trial came to a sensational halt in November when the judge learned that Mr Burrell told the Queen five years ago he had taken some of the princess's property.


It will be water off a duck's back to Paul after what he's been through

Licensee Keith Bouchier

The Burrells live in the nearby village of Farndon in Cheshire and are said to be popular figures on both sides of the border.

Drinkers at Mr Burrell's local, The Farndon Arms, were shocked to learn of the fire incident.

Landlord Keith Bouchier blamed the attack on "mindless thugs".

Chief Inspector Bob Wilson
Hunt for arsonist : Ch Insp Bob Wilson

"Things were just getting back to normal for Paul and then this happens," he said.

"It's just the work of mindless idiots in my opinion. It will be water off a duck's back to Paul after what he's been through.

"But it will upset him, and it will upset his wife Maria even more."

"Paul was just getting on with his life."

Upset

But landlord of the nearby Greyhound Hotel, Marco Paoloni, said he was not surprised by the attack.

"All the locals have been gossiping about it but something like this was almost expected," he said.

"Paul has upset a lot of people by selling his story so he should have half-expected something like this.

"It is still a bit of a shock and I hope the family do not take it to heart too much."

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BBC Wales' Matthew Richards
"There is extensive smoke damage"

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