October 22, 2003 03:22 PM

The father of Dodi al Fayed believes a royal conspiracy was behind the death of his son and Princess Diana in an August 1997 car crash — but the princess’s own family isn’t buying it.

Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, made a public statement Wednesday saying he does not believe that his sister’s death was planned. The comments come just as a representative for British Prime Minister Tony Blair told Mohammed al Fayed that there would be no new official inquiry into the couple’s death.

“My family and I are absolutely certain that we’ve never seen any evidence of that whatsoever,” Spencer told NBC’s “Today” show, adding that neither he nor his family believe there was foul play. As for Diana’s fears or premonitions, he added, “I do think it’s just a horrible coincidence, rather than actually tied in with reality.”

The brouhaha resurfaced earlier this week, when Diana’s butler released a letter written 10 months before her death in which the princess expressed fear that someone was plotting against her. Diana reportedly wrote that someone was planning “an accident in my car, brake failure and serious head injury in order to make the path clear for Charles to marry.”

The letter appears in former butler Paul Burrell’s new book “A Royal Duty,” which will be excerpted in the next issue of PEOPLE.

Diana and Dodi were killed in a Paris traffic tunnel in a car crash that also claimed the life of driver Henri Paul. A French judge subsequently ruled that Paul’s use of drugs and alcohol, in a deadly combination with the car’s high speed, caused the accident.

Fayed’s father, Mohammed al Fayed, who has never accepted that conclusion, renewed his ongoing demand for a public inquiry into the deaths. Buckingham Palace has never commented on the matter.

Asked by “Today” if Diana’s fears were justified, Spencer said his sister had spoken to him about being eavesdropped on and having her private quarters bugged.

“I think ‘paranoid’ is a very strong word,” Spencer said. “I think using it in the common way of meaning very concerned, she was at times.”

He also said he had not seen the letters in Burrell’s possession but had heard from handwriting experts that the sections made public did appear to match Diana’s handwriting.

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