The BBC attempted to blame Princess Diana's brother for the bank statements which were used by the journalist Martin Bashir to secure his famous Panorama interview, according to documents.Princess Diana gave the interview in 1995 which became a watershed moment for the Royal Family.It is claimed that Mr Bashir used the bank statements to show Earl Spencer that one of his employees had betrayed him and was, in fact, being paid to spy on Princess Diana.The claim encouraged Charles Spencer to introduce the BBC reporter to his older sister and ultimately led to Diana giving the BBC the biggest scoop of the decade.BBC documents, released under Freedom of Information laws, reveal what conclusions senior BBC managers came to over Mr Bashir's conduct - five months after the Diana interview had been broadcast.The BBC's then Head of News, Tony Hall, later Lord Hall, told a Board of Governors meeting on April 25, 1996, that it was Earl Spencer who had produced the bank statements and given them to Mr Bashir.
Lord Hall, who went on to become the BBC's Director-General, wrote in his 1996 report: "Earl Spencer... showed him [Martin Bashir] some documents including this man's bank statement."He then wrote that Mr Bashir "made them into a graphic using the bank statement Spencer had given him."However, the Panorama graphic designer who produced the false bank statements told an ITV documentary earlier this month that Martin Bashir had asked him to urgently create them one evening.Matt Wiessler said he had no idea what the statements were going to be used for.Charles Spencer claims Mr Bashir then took the forged documents to Althorp House, the Spencer family home, to reveal how his head of security was getting paid by News International.Princes Diana's brother also claims the second bank statement was used to suggest that same employee was being paid by the security services.
Lord Hall wrote his report for the BBC Board in 1996 after some of these claims came to light.
He said at the time: "I have talked to Martin at length about his reasons for compiling the graphic. He has none, other than he wasn't thinking."Lord Hall also wrote: "I believe he [Bashir] is, even with this lapse, honest and an honourable man. He is contrite."The BBC has now commissioned an independent investigation and has appointed a former senior judge, Lord Dyson, to lead it.ITV News has approached Lord Hall about his 1996 investigation and he told our cameras: "I investigated at the time, I will take part in the Lord Dyson inquiry and I look forward to telling him what I think."
Pressed further about his plans, Lord Hall said: "I'm going to take part in the Inquiry, I think Lord Dyson is the right way [...] he's doing all the right things, and I will take part in that inquiry and I shall say what I want to say to Lord Dyson."
Martin Bashir, who is now the BBC's Religious Affairs Editor, is unable to respond to the accusations.
The BBC says he is on sick leave after major heart surgery and complications caused by Covid-19.
The corporation insists all these issues will be examined in detail by the Lord Dyson inquiry which it says has already begun its work.