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BBC appoints ex-judge to investigate 1995 interview with Princess Diana

Princess Diana’s brother has alleged that the BBC Panorama reporter who conducted the interview showed him faked documents.

Diana, Princess of Wales, during her interview with Martin Bashir for the BBC, which is on a new chart of the most-watched programmes in the 80-year history of British television.
Diana, Princess of Wales, during her interview with Martin Bashir for the BBC, which is on a new chart of the most-watched programmes in the 80-year history of British television.
Image: PA Images

THE BBC ANNOUNCED the immediate start of an investigation into how it obtained an explosive 1995 interview with Princess Diana that lifted the lid on her troubled marriage to Prince Charles.

The corporation said it had approved the appointment of former Supreme Court judge John Dyson to lead the probe, which comes after calls from the late princess’ brother, Charles Spencer.

Spencer has alleged that the flagship ‘Panorama’ programme reporter who conducted the interview, Martin Bashir, showed him faked documents to persuade his sister to take part.

In the November 1995 interview, which was watched by a record 22.8 million people, Princess Diana detailed her collapsing marriage to the heir to the throne.

She famously said “there were three people” in her marriage – her, Charles and his long-time lover Camilla Parker-Bowles – and also revealed she had been unfaithful.

Diana and Charles formally divorced in 1996. She died in a Paris car crash the following year.

New reports have surfaced alleging that Bashir used underhand methods to persuade Diana to talk, including by claiming her own staff members were being paid to spy on her.

“This is an important investigation which I will start straight away,” Dyson said in a statement. “I will ensure it is both thorough and fair.”

The BBC set out the terms of reference for the probe, focusing principally on the role of Bashir, who was little-known at the time but went on to have a global career.

It will consider “the mocked-up bank statements purporting to show payments to a former employee of Earl Spencer… (and) the purported payments to members of the Royal Household”.

It will also look at revelations made by Spencer this month about Bashir to the Daily Mail, which said the reporter made “lurid claims” about Queen Elizabeth II, Charles and other royals.

The entire terms of reference are:

  1. What steps did the BBC and in particular Martin Bashir take with a view to obtaining the Panorama interview on 20 November 1995 with Diana, Princess of Wales? This will involve a consideration of all the relevant evidence including (i) the mocked up bank statements purporting to show payments to a former employee of Earl Spencer (ii) the purported payments to members of the Royal Households; and (iii) the other matters recently raised by Earl Spencer not limited to the matters published in the Daily Mail on 7 November 2020.
  2. Were those steps appropriate, having regard in particular to the BBC’s editorial standards prevailing at the time?
  3. To what extent did the actions of the BBC and in particular Martin Bashir influence Diana, Princess of Wales’s decision to give an interview?
  4. What knowledge did the BBC have in 1995 and 1996 of the relevant evidence referred to at paragraph 1 above?
  5. Having regard to what was known at the time of its investigation in 1995 and 1996, how effectively did the BBC investigate the circumstances leading to the interview?

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Bashir has not responded to the latest claims. The BBC has said he was seriously unwell after contracting the coronavirus.

The BBC has been accused of a cover-up in a previous inquiry when rumours about Bashir’s alleged methods first surfaced.

The publicly funded broadcaster said its latest investigation will be published once completed.

“The BBC is determined to get to the truth about these events and that is why we have commissioned an independent investigation,” director-general Tim Davie said.

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AFP

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