Martin Bashir ‘deceived and induced’ Princess Diana’s brother to get bombshell Panorama interview, BBC report finds

Former BBC reporter Martin Bashir "deceived and induced" Princess Diana’s brother to secure a bombshell Panorama interview with her, a report has found.

By producing fake bank statements, Mr Bashir made a "serious breach" of BBC guidelines on straight-dealing when he secured the 1995 interview.

Mr Bashir has apologised in response to the report’s findings and said the faking of bank statements was a "stupid thing to do" and "an action I deeply regret".

However, he added he felt it had "no bearing whatsoever on the personal choice by Princess Diana to take part in the interview".

BBC director-general Tim Davie has made a "full and unconditional" apology after the findings in Lord Dyson’s report were released.

The corporation has written apologies to Diana’s sons Prince William and Prince Harry, as well as Prince Charles and Earl Spencer.

Former director-general Lord Hall, who was the BBC’s director of news and current affairs when the Diana interview was screened, has said he accepts the corporation’s 1996 inquiry into how the sit-down was secured "fell well short of what was required".

He added he was "wrong to give Martin Bashir the benefit of the doubt".

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the report "reveals damning failings at the heart of the BBC".

"We will now reflect on Lord Dyson’s thorough report and consider whether further governance reforms at the BBC are needed in the mid-term Charter review," he added.

Lord Dyson’s report was set up to explore how the BBC and journalist Bashir landed the explosive Panorama interview with Princess Diana – during which she sensationally said there were "three of us" in her marriage to Prince Charles.

Mr Bashir, who recently stepped down as the BBC’s religion editor due to ongoing health issues, said in a statement after the report’s findings were released: "This is the second time that I have willingly fully co-operated with an investigation into events more than 25 years ago.

"I apologised then, and I do so again now, over the fact that I asked for bank statements to be mocked up. It was a stupid thing to do and was an action I deeply regret.

"But I absolutely stand by the evidence I gave a quarter of a century ago, and again more recently.

"I also reiterate that the bank statements had no bearing whatsoever on the personal choice by Princess Diana to take part in the interview."

It comes as a letter which Diana wrote over a month after the programme aired has been published by the inquiry for the first time.

In the note, she defended her decision to be interviewed by Mr Bashir and she had "no regrets".

The letter, dated 22 December 1995, said: "Martin Bashir did not show me any documents, nor give me any information that I was not previously aware of.

"I consented to the interview on Panorama without any undue pressure and have no regrets concerning the matter."

The note was written after Mr Bashir was asked by BBC executives to provide evidence Diana had not been shown fake bank statements as he tried to gain access to her.

Lord Dyson’s report said: "Mr Bashir gave them an account of the faking of the documents. Crucially, he told them that he had not shown them to anyone.

"They accepted that he was telling them the truth, but asked him to provide independent evidence that Princess Diana had not been shown the documents.

"Within a few hours, Mr Bashir obtained a note dated 22 December 1995, signed by her which supported what he had said. I am satisfied that the Diana note is a genuine document."

Earl Spencer said in a new Panorama programme: "I have seen the content of the letter. It does not exonerate the BBC as far as I’m concerned because Diana is dealing from a position from having been lied to. She didn’t know that the whole obtaining of the interview was based on a series of falsehoods that led to her being vulnerable to this."

Lord Hall said in response to Lord Dyson’s report: "I accept that our investigation 25 years ago into how Panorama secured the interview with Princess Diana fell well short of what was required. In hindsight, there were further steps we could and should have taken following complaints about Martin Bashir’s conduct.

"I was wrong to give Martin Bashir the benefit of the doubt, basing that judgement as I did on what appeared to be deep remorse on his part."

Documents seen by Sky News show that Lord Hall was aware Mr Bashir had mocked up a bank statement using "information he had got from the highest level and made them into a graphic".

Lord Dyson’s investigation looked at whether the steps taken by Mr Bashir and the BBC were appropriate and to what extent those actions influenced Diana’s decision to take part in the interview.

The princess’s brother Earl Spencer maintained for years that Mr Bashir showed him fake financial documents relating to Diana’s former private secretary Patrick Jephson and another former royal household member.

He also said the journalist had told outlandish and untrue stories about the Royal Family to get Diana onside, including that she was being spied on by the secret services.

Earl Spencer shared a family photo of himself and Diana as children this morning before the report’s findings were released.

Reacting to the report, he tweeted: "I’d like to thank the TV journalist Andy Webb for his tireless professionalism in bringing the Bashir-Panorama-BBC scandal to light. If he hadn’t have pursued this story for well over a decade, and shared his findings with me last October, today’s findings wouldn’t have surfaced."

And the earl has told a new Panorama programme that the consequences of Diana’s decision to do the interview contributed to her death in a Paris car crash on 31 August 1997.

He said: "The irony is that I met Martin Bashir on 31 August 1995, because exactly two years later she died, and I do draw a line between the two events."

Lord Birt, director-general of the BBC at the time of the 1995 interview, said on Thursday: "We now know the BBC harboured a rogue reporter on Panorama who fabricated an elaborate, detailed but wholly false account of his dealings with Earl Spencer and Princess Diana."

He added: "This is a shocking blot on the BBC’s enduring commitment to honest journalism; and it is a matter of the greatest regret that it has taken 25 years for the full truth to emerge."

Diana’s son Prince William expressed support for the investigation, saying last year it should "help establish the truth behind the actions" that led to the programme.

Numerous journalists had raised questions with the BBC about how Mr Bashir secured the interview and the techniques he used, both before it was aired and five months later when a whistleblower informed the Mail on Sunday about the fake bank statement.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap