Mirror spoofs again to hold on to Diana scoop

Daily Mirror: kept splash a secret

For the third time in as many months, the Daily Mirror used a spoof front page to stop its competitors following up a major royal exclusive.

By initially splashing with a story about Britney Spears and then changing to the real front page for later editions, the Mirror ensured it was the only newspaper to reveal that the late Princess Diana believed Prince Charles was plotting to kill her.

Tuesday’s story was followed up on the front page of every London national the next day, with the sole exception of the Financial Times.

In October, the Mirror used a spoof front to protect its initial serialisation of Paul Burrell’s book. It did the same again in November, when Ryan Parry went undercover as a Buckingham Palace footman.

Editor Piers Morgan said: “We did what we did with the last two and we spoofed it. We didn’t put it in the first 40,000 copies, which meant most of the print run got it but the first 40,000, for street sales and what have you, didn’t carry it.

“The opposition didn’t know anything about it until about 5am, by which time it was too late.”

He added: “It’s been a series of sensational stories. It’s obviously very good for the paper to be centre of the agenda all the time.”

The allegation from Diana that Charles intended to have her killed in a car crash was contained in a letter owned by Burrell.

The former butler had blanked out the words “my husband” from the letter and did not want the truth to come out.

This week he told reporters that he was unhappy about the way the Mirror had behaved and said he was considering legal action.

Morgan said: “I understand how Paul Burrell feels, he wanted to keep it a secret. Clearly, once I had ascertained that Paul Burrell was going to give the letter to the coroner for potential use in the public inquest, it was quite clear to me that either officially or unofficially the name would come out and we couldn’t be scooped on something that we’d known about for months.

“We decided to get in first on the basis that it was entering the public domain.”

Morgan dismissed the suggestion that Prince Charles could sue his paper for libel. He said: “We don’t anticipate any legal issues here. In the end it’s not the word of the Daily Mirror, it’s the word of Diana.

“You’d effectively have Prince Charles sueing over comments made by his dead ex-wife in a letter. What we are reporting is potential material evidence for an inquest which is obviously in the public interest.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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