The BBC is braced for a critical report into its infamous Princess Diana interview in 1995 by the journalist Martin Bashir. Diana’s sons, Princes William and Harry, will read the conclusions of the six month long investigation by the retired senior judge Lord Dyson when they are published on Thursday afternoon. It’s thought one or both brothers might respond in public to the investigation into how Mr Bashir secured the worldwide exclusive with their mother Prince William said last year that he hoped Lord Dyson’s inquiry would “establish the truth”.
The interview on the BBC’s Panorama programme changed the course of royal history and led to a fast-track divorce.
The Princess spoke of how “there were three of us in this marriage” when Bashir asked her about Prince Charles’ affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles. Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, gave evidence to the inquiry and shared the contemporaneous notes he took when he first met Mr Bashir. Charles Spencer’s notes from that meeting have been seen by ITV News.
Martin Bashir is accused of mocking up fake bank statements to falsely claim that one of Charles Spencer’s staff was being paid for leaking stories about Diana to the tabloids.
The journalist has not commented publicly about the allegations made against him.
Last week, just before Lord Dyson confirmed that he had completed his investigation, BBC News announced that Mr Bashir had left his job as Religion Editor on ‘health’ grounds. He had suffered complications following surgery for a triple heart bypass. Charles Spencer met Martin Bashir three times in 1995.
The first was in August at the Spencer family’s Althorp estate. It was at this meeting that Bashir produced the fake bank statements showing, falsely, a £4,000 payment to Charles Spencer’s Head of Security at that time. Last year, the former Panorama graphic designer who was asked to make the fake documents, told an ITV documentary that he had been made a “fall guy” by the BBC. Mr Wiessler broke his silence 25 years after the programme was first broadcast to 23 million viewers in the UK. Earl Spencer went onto the meet Bashir with Princess Diana at an apartment in London in September 1995. Diana’s brother claims Bashir also told them of payments from an offshore account to both her and Prince Charles’ Private Secretaries.
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Earl Spencer told the inquiry, that Bashir was trying to convince Princess Diana that she was being spied on and the payments to the private secretaries were actually from Mi5. Diana’s brother accuses Martin Bashir of praying on Diana’s paranoia that she was a victim of spying and that her phones had been bugged.
The BBC looked into the claims of falsified bank statements in 1996, a year after the Panorama programme.
The head of BBC News at the time was Tony Hall, now Lord Hall, the recently departed director general of the BBC. He wrote in 1996 that he found Martin Bashir to be “an honest an honourable man”. The Telegraph has reported a source likening the Dyson report for the BBC to the phone hacking scandal for British tabloids. Princess Diana’s former Private Secretary, Patrick Jephson, has previous spoken of a “line” that can be drawn from the Panorama interview in 1995 to the Princess’ death in 1997 because it the programme led to a quick divorce from Prince Charles and Diana losing HRH titles and with it - her Metropolitan Police protection officers.