‘British spies bugged Diana, leaked tapes to smear her’

British intelligence was spying on Princess Diana and recording embarrassingly private conversations, which were later leaked to the world, three years before she separated from the heir to the throne, her former bodyguard has said.

Ken Wharfe, Diana’s former bodyguard, told the long-running inquest into her death that the infamous “Squidgygate” tapes of Diana talking in an intimate fashion to an alleged lover were recorded by the British intelligence listening station GCHQ.

They were later deliberately leaked to embarrass the Princess, he said, in a damaging suggestion the royal family was “jealous” of Diana’s “popularity” and aides to the British Queen and her husband were “sharpening their knives” against her.

The revelation, splashed as the front-page lead story of the traditional and generally monarchist Daily Telegraph newspaper, has transfixed royal-watchers. Many believe it gives ballast to 10-year-old conspiracy theories about Establishment involvement in Diana’s death in Paris, alongside Dodi, the playboy son of Egyptian millionaire grocer Mohammed al-Fayed.

But Wharfe, the beefy, thickset, veteran royal protection officer who formerly cashed in on his association with Diana by writing a book about the six years he served her, added the caveat that British security services also regularly bugged other members of the royal family and cabinet ministers in the 1980s and 1990s, ostensibly to help protect them against assassination by the IRA.

On the ‘Squidygate’ tapes, which were relayed to a prurient world three years after Diana’s 1989 conversation with childhood friend and alleged lover James Gilbey, the man is heard repeatedly telling her “I love you”. The half-hour conversation had Gilbey, heir to the eponymous gin empire, calling Diana “Squidgy”, a pet name, 53 times.

The allegation that the tapes were made at the British government’s top secret monitoring station had Wharfe claiming that “Diana Diana did say to me on a number of occasions she felt she and other members of the family were being monitored.”

Wharfe’s account is seen to square with long-held suspicions the tapes were leaked to smear Diana at a time her relationship with Prince Charles was at its most acrimonious.

Barely a year after the tapes were leaked, Diana hired electronic surveillance experts to sweep her apartments for bugs, the bodyguard claimed.