01/12/2004 at 01:00 AM EST
Following a sensational report in Britain's Daily Mirror that the late Princess Diana believed Prince Charles was plotting to kill her, a senior British government official has called upon Britons to support the heir to the throne.
"He has been through a lot and people should be fully behind him," Health Secretary John Reid tells the British Press Association, adding "We should be supporting him and getting off his back."
According to last Tuesday's article in the Mirror, Diana wrote in an October 1996 letter to her trusted butler Paul Burrell, "... my husband is planning 'an accident' in my car, brake failure and serious head injury in order to make the path clear for him to marry."
The Mirror story hit only hours before royal coroner Michael Burgess opened the inquest into the August 1997 deaths of Diana and her lover Dodi Al Fayed, both of whom (along with their driver, Henri Paul) perished in a Paris traffic tunnel crash following a high-speed chase involving paparazzi.
Since the publication of the Mirror story, there has been no comment from Clarence House, Charles's official residence, and a spokesperson told PEOPLE that there would be no comment coming from the prince.
The Times of London, however, has reported that Charles and his sons, Princes William and Harry, were devastated by the development and that the mood at Clarence House (as well as at Charles's country estate at Highgrove) was one of bewilderment and disbelief.