Journalist Martin Bashir has tricked Princess Diana into giving an explosive BBC television interview in which she opened the lid on her troubled marriage to Prince Charles, an independent investigation concluded Thursday.
Retired senior judge John Dyson said Bashir had made false bank statements falsely suggesting that some of Diana’s closest associates were being paid by the security forces to keep an eye on her.
Bashir then showed them to Diana’s brother Charles Spencer, in a successful attempt to convince him to arrange a meeting between him and Diana and gain her trust.
Dyson said he was “pleased” that Bashir had shown false bank statements “to trick Earl Spencer and get him to arrange a meeting with Princess Diana.”
By acting as described … Mr. Bashir acted inappropriately and in grave violation “of the company’s own editorial guidelines on” direct trading, “Dyson added.
Questions have long been raised about how Bashir convinced Diana to speak on the BBC’s flagship “Panorama” program in November 1995, which was watched by a record 22.8 million people and won a string of television awards.
In it, she famously said “there were three people” in her marriage – she, Charles and his longtime mistress and now wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles – and also admitted adultery.
Our Chairman @ julianknight15 has commented on Lord Dyson’s report on the events behind the BBC Panorama interview with Princess Diana.
We will review the report’s findings and examine the BBC’s response to the report
Full comment below👇 pic.twitter.com/6dsCt9bBhC
– Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee (@CommonsDCMS) May 20, 2021
Bashir, now 58, was little known at the time of the interview but had a high profile career on American television networks, interviewing stars like Michael Jackson.
He returned to the company as a religion editor until he resigned last week due to ill health, hours before Dyson’s report was presented to BBC bosses.
‘Flawed and Ineffective’
A 1996 internal investigation by future BBC chief Tony Hall and another high figure, Anne Sloman, cleared Bashir of misconduct.
But Dyson called that probe “flawed and hopelessly ineffective.”
In particular, it didn’t ask Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, for his version of events, said Dyson, who denounced it for not properly researching Bashir’s actions.
If they could have tested Mr. Bashir’s story by asking him to comment on Earl Spencer’s detailed account, it is very unlikely that they would have believed him and concluded that he was an ‘honest and honorable’. man ‘was,’ he wrote.
Hall, now chairman of the board of the National Gallery in Britain, admitted that the investigation “fell far short of what was needed”, saying he was “wrong in giving Martin Bashir the benefit of the doubt” .
The Daily Telegraph previously suggested that the report’s findings were similar to revelations about phone hacking on the UK News of the World tabloid, which forced its shutdown.
Diana’s boyfriend, Simone Simmons, told The Sun that the interview “destroyed her psychologically” and “made her paranoid.”
BBC Director General Tim Davie said the company fully accepted Dyson’s findings and offered a “full and unconditional apology”.
Tim Davie, BBC Director General, tells @chrisshipitv – “I think it is a difficult day for the BBC. It’s a dark day. We offer a full and unconditional apology to those affected. pic.twitter.com/DAy3uHg6VX
– Lizzie Robinson (@LizzieITV) May 20, 2021
The broadcaster also said it handed over the awards the program won for the interview.
Bashir also apologized, saying that forging the bank statements was “a stupid thing to do and an act that I deeply regret.”
But he claimed it “did not affect Princess Diana’s personal choice to participate,” and was still “extremely proud” of the interview.
Davie also said the princess was “excited about the idea of an interview with the BBC.” Her estranged husband had spoken to the commercial channel ITV in 1994 and also admitted adultery.
But he added, “It is clear that the process of obtaining the interview is far behind what the public may expect. We are very sorry.”
“Clear shortcomings” had been identified, he added, but said the BBC now had “significantly better processes and procedures” than it did at the time.
“The BBC should have put more effort into getting to the bottom of what was happening at the time and being more transparent about what it knew,” added Davie.
John Birt, the company’s director general at the time of the interview, said in a statement, “We now know that the BBC was housing a rogue reporter.”
Diana and Charles formally divorced in 1996. She died at the age of 36 in a high-speed car accident while being chased by paparazzi photographers in Paris the following year. Charles married Camilla in 2005.