The TV graphic designer who was asked to create fake bank statements to help secure an interview with Princess Diana, has claimed he was made a “fall guy” by the BBC.
Matt Wiessler has broken his silence and spoken to television cameras for the first time – 25 years after the Panorama programme was first broadcast.
In 1995, Mr Wiessler was asked by the then Panorama journalist Martin Bashir, currently the BBC’s Religion Editor, to urgently make some mocked-up bank statements.
Bashir used them to as part of a dossier of “evidence” in his bid to Diana’s brother Earl Spencer to help arrange the now infamous Panorama interview in which Diana said “there were three of us in this marriage”.
The programme was watched by 23 million viewers when it aired.
Matt Wiessler speaking as part of ITV's The Diana Interview: Revenge of a Princess, which will be shown on ITV on Monday 9 and Tuesday 10 November
But recent claims by Charles Spencer that he was fed falsehoods by the BBC have raised questions about the ethics of the corporation’s flagship current affairs programme and its correspondent Martin Bashir.
Matt Wiessler has spoken to an ITV documentary which will be shown on Monday and Tuesday, The Diana Interview, Revenge of a Princess.
He says of the BBC: “I thought what it is really about is senior management and senior producers and presenters protecting themselves at all costs.
Chris Ship on the questions the allegations the BBC produced fake bank statements to convince Diana's brother to set up the famous interview
"I quite clearly felt that I was the one that was going to be the fall guy in this story. All I want is for the BBC in this instance to come forward and honestly make an apology. Because it’s had a huge impact." Matt Wiessler told the ITV programme he believed he was making the bank statements as props for some filming purposes – which was quite a normal request for the television series.
The bank statements were used to claim that a member of Charles Spencer’s staff had been receiving newspaper payments for stories and information on Diana.
Charles Spencer has demanded an apology from the BBC, who first looked into the claims in 1996.
Last week, Earl Spencer tweeted: “Many people are, quite understandably, asking why I’ve waited till now to come forward with the truth about how the BBC Panorama [interview] with my sister came about.
"While I knew that Martin Bashir used fake bank statements and other dishonesty to get my sister to do the interview, what I only found out 2 weeks ago, thanks to journalist Andy Webb’s persistent use of the Freedom of Information Act, is that the BBC also knew. Not only knew about it, but that they covered it up.”
At the weekend, the Daily Mail reported that it had been handed Earl Spencer’s contemporaneous notes of the meeting he had with Diana, Princess of Wales and Martin Bashir at a London apartment in 1995.
The newspaper reported Mr Bashir had also made other claims about members of the royal family and that two very senior courtiers in the Royal Household were been paid by the security services to spy on Princess Diana.
They were the kind of conspiracies that the late princess was inclined to believe.
Matt Wiessler, now 58, told the ITV documentary his apartment was later burgled and the only items taken were two computer discs which were back-ups of the fake bank statements he had made.
He says: "I became quite paranoid, because I thought there must be more to this statement story, than I can ever dream of. Because, why would this happen?
"Why would someone break in? And I wasn’t getting any clear answers from anyone.”
Charles Spencer acknowledges that he did encourage his sister to meet Martin Bashir but maintains that his advice to Diana, after that meeting, was that she should not go ahead with an interview.
Diana later arranged for the television crew to come to her apartment at Kensington Palace without telling her brother, or her most senior royal aide, her Private Secretary Patrick Jephson.
Tony Poole, the cameraman who filmed the famous interview told the ITV documentary: “As we were walking to the door, I was thinking, ‘I hope we pull this one off because it’s the most significant bit of filming that I’m ever going to do'.”
He describes how Princess Diana opened the door and said: “Hello boys, do come in. Call me Diana.”
The BBC says it cannot talk to Martin Bashir, who now works for BBC News, because he is “seriously unwell”.
It’s believed he suffered complications after contracting coronavirus.
The BBC statement said: “We will have a robust investigation. It will have the appropriate independence people expect, and we will set out a process for this in due course.”
Of its first investigation into the claims in 1996, the BBC said: “The focus of the BBC’s investigations at the time was on whether the Princess of Wales had been misled.
"According to our records, the Princess spoke for herself, sending a handwritten note saying she had not seen the documents and they had played no part in her decision to take part in the interview.”
The Diana Interview: Revenge of a Princess will be shown on ITV on Monday 9 and Tuesday 10 November at 9pm.