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Diana butler denies theft charges

Burrell leaves a central London police station after being charged with theft of property that had belonged to Diana  

LONDON, England -- Princess Diana's former butler Paul Burrell has denied stealing hundreds of his late employer's possessions.

Burrell, who Diana called "my rock," denied three charges of stealing more than 400 items from Diana, Prince Charles and Prince William when he appeared at London's Bow Street magistrates' court on Friday.

He was released on bail and ordered to appear again in court on October 12.

Burrell, 43, of Chester, northwest England, faced one count each of stealing property from the Prince of Wales, the estate of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Prince William at Kensington Palace on or before June 30, 1998.

Burrell was arrested on suspicion of theft in January and was first questioned at a police station in Runcorn, northwest England. He had been on bail since then and was arrested when he answered bail at West End Central police station in London.

Since his arrest he has denied any wrongdoing and has maintained the items were given to him by his employer.

Burrell, who gave his occupation to police as a writer, is alleged to have stolen six items from the Prince of Wales including a bullwhip.

He is also alleged to have stolen from the prince a letter addressed to St James's Palace about an "Indiana Jones bullwhip."

Other items allegedly stolen from the prince included a silver salver inscribed "The Duchess of Clarence, Christmas 1826", a white metal pepper grinder and black book entitled "Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour."

Burrell is alleged to have stolen 315 items from Diana, Princess of Wales.

They include hundreds of personal photographs and negatives of Diana and her sons as well as private letters, CDs, records, designer clothes and handbags.

The items also include a letter sent to Diana by Mother Teresa in March 1991, a letter from "granny" dated 1989, various letters from her brother Earl Spencer and a letter from Charles to Diana dated July 29, 1994.

Diana would have turned 40 on July 1  

A writing desk presented to the Prince and Princess of Wales on their wedding day in 1981 by the City of Aberdeen is also alleged to have been stolen by Burrell.

Burrell is also alleged to have taken several hats, several ladies handbags, a Cartier clock found wrapped in a towel, a Cartier pouch containing two spoons and a "biblical text."

He is accused of stealing a ceremonial sword in a glass and wood case, a wooden sewing box, two coins in a box presented to "Charles of England" by the town of Sienna and several items of jewellery.

Clothes in the charges include a Christian LaCroix embroidered jacket, brown leather jacket, brown leather dress, two pink roll neck jumpers, skirts, evening dresses, high heels and bags by Prada and Gianni Versace.

Burrell's solicitor Andrew Shaw made a brief statement on the steps of West End Central police station.

He said: "Paul Burrell denies absolutely the charges that have been preferred against him.

"He's rightly perceived to be a man of integrity and trusted by the Royal Family. He says that their trust is justified."

Minutes after the statement was made, Burrell, wearing a dark suit, checked shirt and dark blue tie, left the police station looking stony-faced.

The charges against Burrell, who was at Diana's side through her divorce, are the latest development in an investigation into the alleged theft of jewels, lavish gifts and cash worth more than one million pounds ($1.44 million) from her estate.

After Diana's death in a car crash on August 31, 1997, Burrell received favourable publicity for not making money from his connection with the princess or going public with revealing private information about her.

He helped prepare Diana's body for burial, and he was the only non-family member to witness the burial at her family's estate.

Soon afterwards, the queen awarded him the Royal Victorian Medal for his services to the royal family. Diana would have turned 40 on July 1.

• Diana, Princess of Wales

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