BBC’s day of shame as bombshell probe exposes depths of Martin Bashir’s deception to secure Princess Diana Panorama interview – and reveals ex-corporation chief Lord Hall ‘led cover-up over’ and independent probe will claim’
- BBC bosses braced for onslaught of criticism over Martin Bashir’s interview that led to Diana’s divorce
- Former judge Lord Dyson will publish his highly-anticipated report today after a six-month inquiry
- He is expected to find Bashir broke editorial rules in case some say will be BBC’s ‘phone hacking moment’
- Panorama documentary investigating how Mr Bashir allegedly lied will also air at 7pm this evening
- Bashir, who has quit the BBC for health reasons, has not commented publicly but is said to deny the claims
The BBC faces a day of shame today as a judge-led inquiry is expected to find that Martin Bashir used lies and deceit to ‘con’ Princess Diana into her bombshell Panorama interview and then former director-general Lord Hall ‘led the cover-up’.
Lord Dyson, the former master of the rolls and head of civil justice, was appointed to look into the circumstances surrounding the explosive 1995 sit-down, which famously featured Diana saying: ‘Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.’
A report on the six-month inquiry will be published at 2pm and is expected to reveal that Mr Bashir mocked up bank statements that were shown to Princess Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, in order to win the trust of the royal and Lord Hall is alleged to have run an internal inquiry later branded a ‘whitewash’ by insiders.
The findings could now pave the way for huge damages claims from BBC and royal staff who lost their positions as a result of the explosive interview, royal staff claim, with one source calling the case the corporation’s ‘phone hacking moment’. Lord Hall is said to have been given advanced warning he will be criticised, and is worried he could lose his current job as chairman of the National Gallery in London, according to th
Handwritten notes taken by the Princess of Wales’ brother Earl Spencer during a 90-minute secret meeting with him, Bashir and his sister at a flat in Knightsbridge in 1995 blew open the case. The eight pages from a lined notepad revealed that the BBC reporter made a series of false claims that helped him land the interview of the century where the Princess of Wales opened up on her broken marriage with Charles.
Earl Spencer’s records show that Bashir allegedly claimed that Diana’s private letters were being opened, her car tracked and phoned tapped with her bodyguard plotting against her, and close friends were betraying her.
The notes, handed to Lord Dyson, also contained allegations MI6 had recorded Prince Charles and his private secretary planning the ‘end game’ – an extraordinary and false hint the heir to the throne was plotting to ‘destroy’ the Spencers and force them to flee to the US.
Earl Spencer says that there were 32 jaw-dropping smears peddled by Martin Bashir , but the journalist, who quit the BBC last week, is understood to have denied this to inquiry chief Lord Dyson, and may have argued that some of these claims came from Diana’s mouth.
As Bashir is accused of breaching the BBC’s editorial guidelines at the time, it also emerged:
- Prince William may comment on report’s findings when he has had a chance to read it after its release this afternoon;
- A Panorama show initially postponed by Director-General Tim Davie for “duty of care” reasons, will finall air tonight on BBC One at 7pm.
- One of Diana’s closest friends claims she would still be alive today if she had not been ‘conned’ into speaking to Martin Bashir. Simone Simmons says Diana became so paranoid they were on their hands and knees looking for phone tapping devices;
- Judge’s damning verdict ‘will be a true eye-opener. This could be the BBC’s phone hacking moment’, says one source;
- Lord Hall facing questions amid claims he helped cover up the scandal, having led previous internal inquiry that found Bashir was a ‘honest man’;
Lord Dyson was commissioned six months ago to examine whether Princess Diana would have given the historic 1995 interview had it not been for Mr Bashir’s underhand tactics
The BBC’s former director-general, Lord Hall of Birkenhead (left), 70, has been accused of protecting Martin Bashir (right) following his famous 1995 interview
Charles Spencer’s detailed notes. The manila file contains notes of every meeting he had with Bashir, the logs of phone calls the BBC man made along with the faxes, the letters and even the gushing thank you cards that the reporter sent him
Lord Hall of Birkenhead, 70, was identified in 60 pages of previously secret documents as being a ‘key figure’ who helped protect the BBC journalist following his explosive 1995 interview with the royal.
On just one sheet, toxic accusations that made Diana’s suspect her own team
Pictured, Spencer kept detailed notes
1) Bashir’s opening gambit that three members of MI6 had told him Prince Charles’s private secretary Richard Aylard was ‘orchestrating’ things surrounding Diana. This involved Ken Wharfe, Diana’s former bodyguard, described as ‘scum’.
2) Aylard, it was claimed, had been paid by the broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby. A decision to reinvent the prince had been taken by aides two years earlier. A year later this allegedly included attacking both Diana and the Spencer family.
3) MI6 agents had recordings of Prince Charles and Aylard talking in which the phrase ‘the end game’ was uttered, thought to refer to a divorce between the prince and princess. Diana also said she would not agree to a divorce.
4) Spencers’ reputation to be destroyed. In another remark recorded by Lord Spencer, Bashir claimed Prince Charles wanted Spencer’s then wife, Victoria, dead. Diana meanwhile would be forced to move to America — possibly with her brother.
5) This relates to the stories during 1995 of the close friendship between Diana and the married England rugby captain Will Carling. Spencer notes Bashir’s assertion that the newspaper stories had been ‘fed’ by Carling’s wife Julia.
It came after concerns were raised by three Panorama journalists about Mr Bashir at the time, with friends claiming that the rogue reporter ‘destroyed her psychologically and made her paranoid’.
Simone Simmons , 61, who also gave evidence during the inquiry and was at one meeting, said today: ‘The interview led to her divorce and losing her HRH titles. He destroyed her psychologically and made her paranoid — saying the royals wanted to bump her off and distrust her loyal staff and friends’.
The latest accusation comes as a report, which will be published this afternoon, is understood to have found that Mr Bashir, 58, ’employed deceitful methods’ and ‘breached’ guidelines to secure his famous interview with the royal.
A year after the interview, an internal inquiry led by Lord Hall found that Mr Bashir was an ‘honest man’ and there was ‘no question of Mr Bashir trying to mislead or do anything improper’.
Documents seen by Lord Dyson of minutes taken from meetings of the BBC news and current affairs board after the controversial interview showed three Panorama journalists, who later left the show, raised concerns about Mr Bashir’s conduct.
Lord Hall is also accused of telling graphic designer Matthew Weissler, who helped Mr Bashir create the mocked-up bank statements, that he ‘will not work for the BBC again’.
A BBC source told The Times: ‘What happened at Panorama with Bashir set the culture of the BBC where staff were afraid to raise concerns about wrongdoing.
‘It also set the format for how far you can push it and then cover up to get a scoop.
‘It is not acceptable for a licence fee- funded organisation. The whistleblowers were axed and those who covered up were promoted.’
The six-month inquiry, which was conducted by former judge Lord Dyson, is expected to reveal that Mr Bashir mocked up bank statements that were shown to Princess Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, in order to win the trust of the royal.
The independent report is also expected to condemn senior BBC executives who worked at the corporation at the time over allegations of a cover-up, The Telegraph reports.
Lord Dyson was commissioned last year to examine whether Princess Diana would have given the historic 1995 interview, in which she famously declared ‘there were three of us in this marriage’, had it not been for Mr Bashir’s underhand tactics.
He will this afternoon publish his report into the scandal after broadening his inquiry amid concerns about the journalist’s wider practices.
Then a long-awaited Panorama documentary investigating how Mr Bashir allegedly lied and cheated to land his Diana exclusive will be broadcast this evening.
A source told The Telegraph: ‘It will be a true eye opener. This could be the BBC’s phone hacking moment.’
During the inquiry, notes given to the judge by Princess Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, which were seen by The Telegraph, detailed a conversation between Mr Bashir and Princess Diana prior to the famous interview.
It included a list of allegations made by Mr Bashir that Princess Diana’s phones had been bugged and that she was being followed.
The BBC’s controller of editorial policy in 1995, Richard Ayre, told The Telegraph: ‘The use of deceit in making factual programmes would have been permissible only in the case of investigating serious crime… and where prima facie evidence of the guilt of that person being investigated had already been obtained.
‘Those circumstances clearly don’t apply to an interview with the Princess of Wales.’
Lord Dyson warned he would follow the evidence – even if that meant straying from his brief, it can be revealed. A document seen by the Daily Mail shows he refused to be restricted to a ‘narrow’ investigation.
A second source suggested the eminent former Master of the Rolls had taken an interest in Mr Bashir’s wider career.
After allegedly using dirty tricks to convince Diana to be interviewed for Panorama, the reporter went on to other high-profile scoops including a controversial documentary on Michael Jackson.
The disgraced pop singer later complained he felt tricked by Mr Bashir.
The reporter was accused of telling shocking lies to relatives of those murdered by GP Harold Shipman and peddling damaging ‘untruths’ to Scotland Yard about the Soho bombings case, it was claimed.
Last November the BBC commissioned former Supreme Court judge Lord Dyson (pictured) to probe allegations that the corporation covered up the trail of deceit by its reporter
Mr Bashir is accused of using the fake bank statements to gain Earl Spencer’s trust
It is not known whether Lord Dyson has addressed these claims in the report, or drawn any broader conclusions about Mr Bashir’s modus operandi.
Timeline of the Diana-Panorama scandal
1986: Martin Bashir joins BBC as news correspondent and works on programmes including Songs of Praise, Public Eye and Panorama.
November 1995: The famous interview with Princess Diana turns Mr Bashir into TV’s hottest property.
1996: The Mail on Sunday reveals claims that Mr Bashir used faked bank documents to persuade Diana to talk. The BBC holds internal inquiry dismissed as a ‘whitewash’.
1999: Moves to ITV’s Tonight with Trevor McDonald. His scoops include interview with Stephen Lawrence suspects and documentary on Michael Jackson.
May 2004: Quits to host ABC’s Nightline in US. Suspended in 2008 after making ‘Asian babes’ remark at Asian American Journalists convention.
2010: Joins NBC News as an MSNBC anchor. He resigns in 2013 after controversial remarks about vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
2016: BBC re-hires Mr Bashir as religious affairs correspondent. He is later promoted to religion editor.
October 2020: Channel 4 documentary alleges there was ‘elaborate plot’ by Mr Bashir to trick Diana into talking.
November 7: The Daily Mail reveals a shocking dossier held by Diana’s brother Earl Spencer revealing alleged royal smears, lies and tricks that Mr Bashir used to land his interview.
November 18: BBC orders six-month inquiry by former judge Lord Dyson.
May 14, 2021: The BBC announces Mr Bashir has quit on health grounds.
But after the BBC commissioned him to probe the circumstances of the Diana interview, the judge vowed not to be constrained by that one episode.
A source close to the inquiry said Lord Dyson had pledged to ‘conduct a fearless investigation’ and was ‘determined to get to the truth’.
They added that he would not adopt a ‘narrow interpretation’ of his terms of reference, which he regarded as just a ‘framework’. Lord Dyson would also pursue evidence ‘covering a wider timeframe’ if he wanted to.
Lord Dyson was commissioned six months ago to examine whether Diana would have given the historic 1995 interview – in which she declared ‘there were three of us in this marriage’, hastening the royal divorce – had it not been for Mr Bashir’s underhand tactics.
Mr Bashir is still the BBC’s religion editor, although he handed in his notice last month after a series of health scares.
The Mail revealed last November how he spun an extraordinary web of deceit to clinch his interview.
He allegedly told a string of lies to gain Diana’s trust, including cruelly playing to her paranoia by pretending he had evidence that her staff were spying on her for newspapers and MI5.
It is claimed the lurid smears included an allegation that Prince Edward was being treated for Aids at a London hospital, that the Queen was a ‘comfort eater’ with ‘heart problems’, and that Prince Charles was ‘in love’ with his children’s nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke and went on a secret holiday with her.
It comes as Princess Diana’s friend Simone Simmons , 61, who also gave evidence during the inquiry, claimed Mr Bashir ‘conned’ the royal into giving the interview.
Ms Simmons told The Sun: ‘Diana was conned into doing the programme, and it wasn’t just forged bank documents.’
She added: ‘He was an out and out b*****d. He destroyed her psychologically and made her paranoid — saying the royals wanted to bump her off and distrust her loyal staff and friends.
‘We nicknamed Martin Bashir the Poison Dwarf. The interview led to her divorce and losing her HRH titles.
‘There is no doubt in my mind that Diana would still be alive today if she hadn’t spoken to Bashir.
‘I hope they throw the book at him. Justice should be done.’
The BBC was last night wracked in turmoil over the Panorama special into Mr Bashir’s Diana interview slated for tonight.
It had ‘bravely’ commissioned veteran investigative reporter John Ware six months ago to probe the scandal – in effect, Panorama investigating itself.
The investigation will tell the ‘inside story’ of how Mr Bashir got his interview.
Titled Princess Diana, Martin Bashir and the BBC, it will look at the BBC’s response after it learned he had faked bank statements and features ‘exclusive interviews and revelations from internal BBC documents’.
Director-general Tim Davie had shelved the programme last Friday, leading to a chorus of condemnation.
Earlier this week, sources then said the programme would be aired the same day as the Dyson report was published.
Yesterday there were frantic meetings involving BBC lawyers. Last night the corporation put out a revision to its schedules, with The One Show taken off air at 7pm to make way for the documentary.
The handwritten scraps that could end Martin Bashir’s career: Notes by Earl Spencer on first meeting of journalist and Princess Diana are key to inquiry
Jaw-dropping smears and lies allegedly peddled by Martin Bashir to clinch his sensational Princess Diana scoop were recorded by her brother.
Earl Spencer kept meticulous notes of a meeting in September 1995, when he introduced the BBC journalist to his sister.
His devastating dossier, which was handed to Lord Dyson, includes preposterous falsehoods about the royals and senior courtiers. Lord Spencer’s handwritten log of the meeting includes a note saying: ‘Camilla: depressed, but quiet for time being.’
There was also some ‘v. unpleasant correspondence’ involving Prince Philip and the suggestion that Diana had been ‘followed twice’ in her car. Bashir is accused of effectively grooming the vulnerable princess by playing to her worst fears.
At the meeting, Bashir allegedly brandished bank statements purportedly showing that Diana’s closest aides were selling her secrets.
The Spencer files detail how Bashir allegedly told her that her car was tracked, her phone bugged and MI6 had overheard Prince Charles and his private secretary plotting ‘the end game’.
Other hurtful smears included that Charles and nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke went on a secret holiday together, he was ‘in love’ with Miss Legge-Bourke, and Prince Edward was having treatment for Aids at Royal Marsden Hospital.
Earl Spencer concluded Bashir was a fantasist and apologised to his sister after the meeting for wasting her time.
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