July 22, 2006

Princess Diana coroner quits over work pressure

LONDON (Reuters) - The inquest into Princess Diana's death
is likely to be delayed after the royal coroner quit, blaming
the work load of his main job as the coroner for the county of
Surrey in southern England, newspapers said on Saturday.

The inquest conducted by Michael Burgess into Diana, who
was killed along with her companion Dodi al Fayed and their
driver in a Paris car crash nine years ago, has been under way
since 2004.

Burgess has asked for a senior judicial figure to take on
the case, the newspapers said.

An inquiry headed by John Stevens, the former head of the
Metropolitan Police, into the circumstances surrounding Diana's
death was expected to deliver a report to Burgess next month.

Burgess had asked Stevens to examine allegations that
Diana's death was not an accident.

A French inquiry in 1999 ruled that the accident was caused
by Paul being drunk and driving too fast did little to stem
rumors of a conspiracy and that Diana and Dodi were killed.

Burgess previously said he wanted the inquest to put an end
to the speculation.

On the day the inquest began in January 2004, reports said
that Diana had written a letter to her former butler Paul
Burrell 10 months before her death in which she said she
suspected Charles was trying to kill her.

"This particular phase in my life is the most dangerous,"
the letter said, according to excerpts leaked to the British
media. "My husband is planning 'an accident' in my car, brake
failure and serious head injury."

Royal commentators said the letter raised questions about
Diana's state of mind and in fact reduced the credibility of
any of the allegations aimed at Charles.

Dodi's father, Mohamed al Fayed, owner of the exclusive
London store Harrods, has said he believes his son and Diana
were murdered by British secret services because their
relationship was embarrassing the royal household.