Royal Editor Chris Ship reports on the latest installation in the Bashir-BBC scandal
The former nanny of Prince William and Harry is set to receive substantial damages from the BBC over claims made by Martin Bashir in his infamous 1995 Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.
Alexandra Pettifer, better known as Tiggy Legge-Bourke, appeared at the High Court in London for a public apology from the broadcaster over “fabricated” allegations she had had an affair with the Prince of Wales while working as Charles’ personal assistant in 1995.
Her solicitor Louise Prince told the court that the allegations caused “serious personal consequences for all concerned”.
Mrs Pettifer said after successfully settling her claim for defamation brought against the BBC: “I am disappointed that it needed legal action for the BBC to recognise the serious harm I have been subjected to.
“Sadly, I am one of many people whose lives have been scarred by the deceitful way in which the BBC Panorama was made and the BBC’s subsequent failure to properly investigate the making of the programme.
“The distress caused to the royal family is a source of great upset to me.
“I know first-hand how much they were affected at the time, and how the programme and the false narrative it created have haunted the family in the years since.
“Especially because, still today, so much about the making of the programme is yet to be adequately explained.”
Louise Prince of Harbottle & Lewis, on behalf of Mrs Pettifer, told the court that the former nanny was “relieved that the BBC accepts that the allegations are completely untrue and without any foundation whatsoever.
“She is also pleased that the BBC has agreed to apologise unreservedly… in order to assist her in repairing the substantial harm it has caused her.
“The BBC has agreed to pay to her a substantial sum of damages… It has also agreed to pay her legal costs.”
Jonathan Scherbel-Ball of 5RB, on behalf of the BBC, told the court: “The BBC accepts that the allegations were wholly baseless, should never have been made, and that the BBC did not, at the time, adequately investigate serious concerns over the circumstances in which the BBC secured the Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales."BBC director-general Tim Davie said the programme would never been shown on the corporation's channels again.
“Following publication of the Dyson Report last year we have been working with those who suffered as a result of the deceitful tactics used by the BBC in pursuit of its interview with Diana, Princess of Wales for the Panorama programme in 1995, including the matters that were mentioned in court today in respect of Miss Tiggy Legge-Bourke, now Mrs Alexandra Pettifer," he said.
“The BBC has agreed to pay substantial damages to Mrs Pettifer and I would like to take this opportunity to apologise publicly to her, to the Prince of Wales, and to the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex, for the way in which Princess Diana was deceived and the subsequent impact on all their lives.
“It is a matter of great regret that the BBC did not get to the facts in the immediate aftermath of the programme when there were warning signs that the interview might have been obtained improperly. Instead, as the Duke of Cambridge himself put it, the BBC failed to ask the tough questions.
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“Had we done our job properly Princess Diana would have known the truth during her lifetime. We let her, the royal family and our audiences down.
“Now we know about the shocking way that the interview was obtained I have decided that the BBC will never show the programme again; nor will we licence it in whole or part to other broadcasters.
“It does of course remain part of the historical record and there may be occasions in the future when it will be justified for the BBC to use short extracts for journalistic purposes, but these will be few and far between and will need to be agreed at executive committee level and set in the full context of what we now know about the way the interview was obtained. I would urge others to exercise similar restraint.”
Both William and his brother the Duke of Sussex issued strongly worded statements following the publication of Lord Dyson’s blistering report in May 2021, which criticised the methods used by the BBC journalist to obtain his exclusive 1995 interview with the princess.
Lord Dyson’s report found that Mr Bashir used “deceitful behaviour” to land his world exclusive 1995 interview.
Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, has said he “draws a line” between the interview and his sister’s death, claiming Mr Bashir’s actions led her to give up her royal security detail.
The journalist commissioned documents purporting to show payments into the bank accounts of members of the royal household and showed them to Earl Spencer, according to Lord Dyson.