Butler says Pakistani surgeon was Princess Diana's true love

( dpa ) - Princess Diana planned a private wedding to a Pakistani heart surgeon whom she called "Mr Wonderful" and never intended to get married to Harrods' heir Dodi al-Fayed, with whom she died in Paris in August 1997, the inquest into their deaths was told Monday.

Paul Burrell, Diana's former butler whom she called her "rock," said Dodi and Diana were "definitely not engaged" and the princess never intended to marry him.

Burrell said the princess was on the rebound from a two-year, "extremely serious" relationship with Hasnat Khan, whom she had hoped to marry, but who ended the relationship a few months before Diana took up with Dodi.

Khan, a 48-year-old heart surgeon at London's renowned Royal Brompton Hospital, returned to Pakistan late last year. He is expected to give evidence to the inquest in the next few weeks.

The ex-butler, who worked for Britain's royal household for more than 20 years, and who now lives in Florida after having made millions from publications, also categorically rejected the notion that the princess and Dodi were murdered on the orders of the royal family.

"No, I can't begin to believe that," said Burrell in answer to questions by counsels to the inquest. "Knowing the members of the royal family as I do, and knowing them so well, I think that is impossible."

Asked specifically about fears expressed by Diana that her ex-husband, Prince Charles, was planning "an accident" in her car, Burrell said that too, was impossible.

"The princess always had a great fondness for Prince Charles even after her divorce," he said. "I could not possibly see the father of her children murdering her."

The butler's testimony differs sharply from claims by Dodi's father, Harrods' owner Mohammed al-Fayed, who maintains that the couple were "murdered" by Britain's secret services because they wanted to get married and she was pregnant with Dodi's child.

"I need marriage like a rash," Diana had said after Dodi showered her with gifts, including a precious ring which she wore on her fourth finger to indicate that it was just a friendship token.

Burrell said Diana had asked him to approach a priest to arrange a private wedding between her and Khan, who had become part of the "fixtures and fittings" at Diana's London residence, Kensington Palace.

Khan recently spoke for the first time about his relationship with Diana, saying in newspaper interviews that her death "continued to haunt" him and made him "want to scream" at times.

"There have been very bad times. I have moved on, but it keeps coming back," he told the Daily Mail Monday.

Khan recently separated from his 29-year-old wife, but declined to say why the arranged marriage broke down.

He declined to talk about the circumstances surrounding his split with Diana, whom he first met in 1995, and instead talked of the esteem in which he still held the princess.

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