15 JANUARY 2008

Princess Diana secretly considered marrying Pakistani surgeon Hasnat Khan and asked her butler to draw up wedding plans, Paul Burrell claimed in a day of sensational evidence which electrified the High Court.

Testifying for the first time at the inquest, the man the princess referred to as "my rock' kept his voice low and seemed nervous as he told jurors how he consulted his parish priest to see how it could be done.

"The Princess said (Hasnat) was her soulmate. She said he was the man she loved more than any other and that they were very much in love," said her former aide. "It was a very deep and spiritual relationship."

His statements counter claims by the father of Dodi Fayed, the Princess of Wales' companion in the summer of 1997, that she was on the verge of becoming engaged to his son. That relationship was "a 30-day fling" designed to make the doctor jealous after he broke with Diana fearing the loss of his privacy, said the former butler.

Under cross-examination from a lawyer for Dodi's family, Mr Burrell also reluctantly revealed that the Princess' liaisons with Muslim men so enraged her mother that they rowed bitterly about the subject two months before her death.

Speaking about the royal family's feelings towards Diana, he said both Prince Philip and his son, Charles respected her role as the mother of William and Harry too much to wish her harm.

Photo: ©
The butler, who was constantly at the Princess' side in the latter years of her life, claimed in court that heart surgeon Hasnat Khan was the one Diana wanted to marry - not Dodi Fayed Photo: © RexClick on photo to enlarge