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Diana's private secretary says he expressed concerns about security

Private secretary of Princess Diana said that he had voiced concern about security and possible negative publicity but she didn't respond to his warnings.

Michael Gibbins told the British jury examining the 1997 deaths of Diana and boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, that he had expressed concern about her decision to accept a holiday with the family of Mohamed Al Fayed.

Al Fayed, owner of Harrod's department store, had invited Diana to the French resort of St. Tropez. She accepted, and a romance blossomed between the princess and his son, Dodi Fayed.

The couple died in a car crash in Paris weeks later.

Gibbins, who joined Diana's staff about a year before her death, said he had been aware "by inference, certainly" that the royal household was concerned about negative publicity surrounding her past relationships with lovers or suspected lovers.

Gibbins also noted that Al Fayed "had not always had favorable press reports, and a concern that I had was that if the princess went on that particular holiday, she might expect unfavorable press coverage as a result."

Diana generally did not respond to his concerns, Gibbins said. Generally, "she took it on board, but did not react."

In the hours after her death, Gibbins said he asked Colin Tebbutt, Diana's driver and security adviser, to accompany her butler, Paul Burrell, to Paris. He said he wanted Tebbutt to keep an eye on a very distressed Burrell.

"I wasn't entirely clear why he (Burrell) needed to go to Paris but in the circumstances, I was not going to stop him," Gibbins said.

Gibbins said he spoke several times with Tebbutt that day, and that they discussed efforts needed to preserve the princess' body and make it presentable for family and dignitaries who planned to pay their respects that afternoon.

Al Fayed claims his son and the princess were the targets of a plot orchestrated by Queen Elizabeth II's husband, Prince Philip, and that Britain's intelligence agency, MI6, directed the British Embassy to insure that French officials carry out the embalming to cover up an alleged pregnancy.

But Gibbins said he could not recall discussing embalming with Tebbutt. "I never gave Colin Tebbutt directions to have the princess embalmed," he said.

On Tuesday, Maud Morel Coujard, who was a deputy public prosecutor in Paris in 1997, denied being instructed by the British Embassy to have Diana's body embalmed. Embalmer Jean Monceau said he first suggested the process to the British consul-general.

Eva Steiner, a lecturer on French law at King's College, London, told the inquest that she believed steps taken in Diana's case met legal requirements.

She said Wednesday that permission is not necessarily required from a family member but could be "a person who is a representative of the deceased in some way." This could include a consul in the case of a death abroad.

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