PRINCESS Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell suffered anguish at the hands of a mentally ill stalker who claimed to have kidnapped his wife, a court heard.

Slav Mitev, 50, made a series of phone calls to Mr Burrell at his Farndon flower shop last June in which he also threatened to assassinate the ex-butler and implied he would kill his grown-up sons and brother.

He twice threatened to set fire to the shop, above which Mr Burrell was living.

A jury at Chester Crown Court found Mitev, from Wood Green, London, committed the acts alleged in the harassment charge.

But he had earlier been found unfit to plea by Judge Elgan Edwards, Recorder of Chester, following two psychiatric reports which means he won’t be jailed but could be detained in hospital when sentenced at a later date.

Mr Burrell, whose first flower shop in Holt was fire-bombed 10 years ago, relived the series of malicious calls when he gave evidence as a witness.

He told the jury: “The caller said ‘Have you got a pen because I want you to write this down. I’m going to use an incendiary device’ and went on to say ‘Do you know how much shattered glass there will be in your shop?’.”

Asked by prosecutor Gordon Hennell if he took the threat seriously, Mr Burrell replied: “I certainly did.”

Just a few minutes later Mr Burrell answered what he described as the ‘most disturbing’ call because it referred to his wife Maria who was staying in the couple’s Florida home at the time.

“It started by him saying ‘Maria, Maria’. Maria is my wife’s name. I said to him ‘You know Maria isn’t here. She’s in America’. He said ‘No, she’s not. I have her with me’ and started to laugh.

“‘Can’t you hear her?’ he said and what I could hear in the background was a woman sobbing and someone crying saying ‘please help me, help me, please’ and I can honestly tell you I was sick to my stomach.

“I put the phone down and immediately rang my wife. My thought was that maybe he was calling from the States and he had managed to get into my home and had my wife in custody.”

Mr Burrell, who arranged for BT to trace the nuisance calls, said during one encounter the caller referenced his two grown up sons and said he was going to ‘press the trigger’.

Later the same day he said ‘a plane was going to be blown up’ with his brother on board.

Mr Burrell, who Mitev threatened to assassinate, explained: “He went on to say I had known him for 27 years. I said ‘Why are you doing this? Why do you hate me so much?’. He said he doesn’t hate me, he loves me.”

The former butler said the caller made an obscene sexual reference to photographs which meant nothing to him and demanded to know how much money he had ‘extorted from the royal family’.

The caller also asked why the case against Mr Burrell had collapsed at the Old Bailey in 2002 when he was acquitted of stealing royal possessions.

“I said the Queen intervened. He said it’s because I witnessed a rape,” said Mr Burrell.

The court heard Mitev, a Bulgarian national, who smiled through most of the hearing, was arrested at his home on July 2 last year when his mobile phone was seized. Calls were found to have been made from that phone to the landline at the florists at the relevant times.