CNN BREAKING NEWS
Interview With Robert Johnson, Royals Watcher
Aired November 1, 2002 - 07:13 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to go back to that breaking news out of London, that surprise ending just minutes ago from a London courtroom. If you're just joining us, the judge in the trial of Princess Diana's butler declared him not guilty after unexpected information from the queen herself.
Royals watcher, Robert Johnson, joins us now live from outside the courthouse in London.
ROBERT JOHNSON, ROYALS WATCHER: Hello.
ZAHN: Were you surprised by this ending?
JOHNSON: We've heard that there (AUDIO GAP) throwing a legal argument behind the scenes the last couple of days, and there were suggestions that it was going to collapse today.
So, I'm not surprised. No, I'm not. I am surprised by the way that the information has come out about this meeting between the queen and Paul Burrell in which he apparently told her that he had taken things, and she had effectively given him permission to do so.
So, yes, I am surprised by that. It would have -- if they have carried on with this prosecution, it would have effectively meant that the queen would have had to give evidence in the Old Bailey, and I think that was possibly going to happen.
So, yes, I am surprised, but it's -- Paul Burrell has just given a statement outside the courtroom in which he has basically pointed a finger at a bad investigation by police.
ZAHN: A bad investigation by police. He also...
JOHNSON: By Scotland Yard, yes.
ZAHN: Yes, Robert, he also seemed to suggest that perhaps had investigators been doing their job right, maybe they would have gotten this information from the queen many, many months ago.
JOHNSON: That's true. But one must also ask why Buckingham Palace, and as well as the queen, because we're dealing with justice here -- we're dealing with British justice, not just dealing with pageantry and royal affairs here. If the queen knew this case was coming up, surely she should have passed that information to her private secretary (ph) as a possible relevant piece of information that could have been given to the prosecution and the crown.
So, I think that there are question marks on both sides. Yes, we can blame the police, and I'm sure the police will be here to answer a lot of questions, because it's cost over $2.5 million I think in this case so far to investigate.
But one most also ask questions about her majesty, because if she knew she had this meeting with Paul Burrell, then surely -- this was five years ago. Surely when she knew this case was coming up, which obviously she did, the information she had should have been passed through sources, either her private secretary (ph); also her son, who effectively brought charges against Burrell.
So, I do think there are serious question marks, about, yes, Scotland Yard are going to be reviewed indeed to shoot (ph) them and attack them. But I think Buckingham Palace seriously must look at themselves and say, really, we should have given this information to the police voluntarily.
ZAHN: Well, Robert, if that ends up being true and people really believe the queen suppressed this information on purpose, what could the potential fallout be?
JOHNSON: I think there's going to be an awful lot of questions about the British Constitution, the way people view things over here, because what we don't need in this country are, obviously, people accusing the justice system of being two-tiered; that there's one rule for the royal (ph) family and one for the ordinary people. And I think that's quite a serious problem.
We can only believe the queen didn't think this was relevant and only thought it was relevant after her return from Canada, when she suddenly realized what sort of prosecution evidence was coming out. We have to take her word for that
But I think it has been rather shoddy and there has been an awful lot of public money spent investigating this trial. Yes, you could look at Scotland Yard's investigation and say, it was shoddy; perhaps they should have gone and questioned the queen. But one must also question why Buckingham Palace did not think it was relevant, that why the queen in particular did not think this meeting was relevant.
I think really that should have been brought to the attention a lot, lot sooner, and it would have saved an awful lot of money and an awful lot of embarrassment, and an awful lot of heartache for Paul Burrell.
But one thing is also interesting here, because he told the queen that he was taking some items, he didn't tell Prince Charles and he did tell Prince William and he didn't tell (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
Now, the reason is, this is Diana's possessions, and one must ask a serious question there. Why would the queen have jurisdiction over Diana's possessions? After all, she had stripped Diana of her royal title. She was no longer royal when these things were happening. So, there are some serious questions, which I'm sure will be examined in depth in the aftermath of this result today at the Old Bailey.
ZAHN: Robert, so far, has the British public bought this explanation that perhaps the queen viewed this all as irrelevant up until the point of her return?
JOHNSON: It's too soon to say. I'm sure that most people will say -- they will be questioning, why has it taken so long for this information to reach the prosecution?
ZAHN: And I think Mr. Johnson's cell phone battery just ran out. We had been warned about that, but he had so many interesting things to say, we just kept on going.
Robert Johnson who is a royal expert joining us from London. We really appreciate his live update.
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