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By Michael Holden and Kate Kelland
London - The British government announced a top-level police investigation into the death of Princess Diana on Tuesday as a tabloid newspaper named a senior royal as the person she suspected of plotting to kill her.
More than six years after Diana died in a car crash in Paris, Royal Coroner Michael Burgess opened an inquest into the death by saying the country's top police officer should investigate claims that she did not die accidentally.
"I am aware that there is speculation that these deaths were not the result of a sad but relatively straightforward road traffic accident in Paris," Burgess told the inquest, which was packed with hundreds of journalists from around the world.
"I have asked the metropolitan police commissioner to make inquiries."
Diana, the former wife of heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles died at the age of 36, along with her lover Dodi al Fayed and their chauffeur Henri Paul in a crash in Paris in August 1997.
An inquiry by French authorities in 1999 ruled the accident was caused by Paul being drunk and driving too fast.
Dodi's father, Mohamed al Fayed, multi-millionaire owner of Harrods, has long claimed his son and Diana were murdered by British secret services because their relationship was embarrassing the royal household.
And in a front-page splash on Tuesday, the Daily Mirror tabloid newspaper named the royal she had claimed was "planning an accident" to kill her.
She made the allegation in a letter she gave to her butler and confidant, Paul Burrell, before she died.
The Mirror appeared to be risking an aggressive legal response from Buckingham Palace to its story. The rest of the normally competitive British media omitted the name, apparently to avoid legal action under Britain's tough defamation laws.
The Mirror printed a copy of the letter Diana wrote just 10 months before her death on its inside pages. Although it identified the person in its own story, the name was blanked out in the reproduction of the handwritten letter.
"This particular phase in my life is the most dangerous," it quoted the letter as saying. "(...) is planning 'an accident' in my car, brake failure and serious head injury."
Burrell, who gave The Mirror access to the letter as part of a serialisation of excerpts of his book which was published late last year, reacted angrily to news the name had been revealed.
"I am not very happy about it... I only learnt about it late last night. And it was always my intention never to publish that name," he told reporters waiting outside his house on Tuesday.
Coroner Burgess said the inquest would now be adjourned for between 12 and 15 months, meaning no evidence will be heard for at least another year.
He stressed the inquest was designed to establish facts about the deaths, not add to speculation.
"I have to separate fact from fiction and speculation," he said in a half-hour-long speech. "Speculation and speculative reports are not themselves evidence, however frequently and authoritatively they may be published, broadcast or repeated."