LONDON – Paul Burrell, trusted butler of Princess Diana for many years, was charged Thursday with the theft of property that had belonged to her. He denied all the charges.
Burrell, Diana's "rock" and confidant, was charged with stealing 342 items from Diana, Prince Charles and Prince William on or before June 30, 1998, at Kensington Palace. Some of the items included a bullwhip, a pepper grinder and photographs.
The 43-year-old Burrell was charged with three counts of theft — one each for items belonging to Charles, Diana and William — and was ordered to appear at Bow Street magistrates court on Friday.
Stony-faced and silent, Burrell left West End Central police station and was bundled into a taxi by police officers.
His lawyer, Andrew Shaw, read a short statement from the steps of the station.
"Paul Burrell denies absolutely the charges that have been preferred against him," Shaw said. "He's rightly perceived to be a man of integrity and trusted by the royal family. He says that their trust is justified."
Among the six items he is accused of stealing from Prince Charles are an inscribed silver salver, a white metal pepper grinder and a book, Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour. Another was described by police only as "an Indiana Jones bullwhip."
Burrell had been arrested on suspicion of theft in January. His home near Chester in northwest England was searched by officers who allegedly found Diana's personal effects.
Burrell has been free on bail since then, and has maintained the items were given to him by his employer.
After Diana's death in a car crash Aug. 31, 1997, Burrell was widely praised for refraining from making money from his connection with the princess or revealing private information about her.
He helped prepare Diana's body for burial, and he was the only person outside her immediate family to attend the burial at her family's estate.
Soon afterward, the queen awarded him the Royal Victorian Medal for his services to the royal family.
Three other men had been arrested in connection with the thefts earlier in the year. In April, London's Metropolitan Police charged Harold Brown, 48, with four counts of theft involving items from the estate of the princess.
The stolen goods include several pieces of jewelry and $1,700, as well as a bejeweled model of a dhow — an Arab sailing vessel — that Diana and Charles received as a wedding gift from the Emir of Bahrain. According to news reports, police were alerted when the vessel was put up for sale at a London art dealer's shop.
Brown was working for Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, at Kensington Palace, where Diana also had an apartment.
Burrell joined the royal staff in 1976 as a trainee footman after completing a college course in hotel management. Within a year he was made personal footman to the monarch.
In 1986 he and his wife Maria, a former maid to the queen's husband, Prince Philip, were given jobs as butler and maid at Charles' country home at Highgrove in western England.
After Charles and Diana separated in 1992, Burrell went with Diana to Kensington Palace and was regularly seen with her at royal engagements.
Burrell was chief fund-raiser of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund until the end of 1998 when he was told that since the charity no longer was actively raising money, the position wasn't necessary.