BBC Diana interview controversy takes another twist as broadcaster claims it has found handwritten note from the Royal that appears to absolve Martin Bashir over fake bank documents
- BBC previously said copy of Princess Diana’s note was no longer in possession
- Concerns fake bank statements which BBC said Bashir admitted commissioning
- But BBC said the note confirms the princess had not seen the false documents
- Said they played no part in her decision to speak on camera in 1995 interview
- But Earl Spencer accused Mr Bashir of showing him other made-up documents
The BBC has claimed to have discovered a handwritten note from Princess Diana that appears to absolve journalist Martin Bashir of using false documents to influence her Panorama appearance.
The broadcaster previously said a copy of the Princess of Wales’s note was no longer in its possession and could not be produced for a 2007 Freedom of Information request – although its existence was documented in BBC records.
Diana’s document refers to mocked-up bank statements which the corporation has said Mr Bashir – who interviewed the royal – admitted commissioning as he tried to gain access to the princess.
But the BBC has said the note confirms the princess had not seen the false financial documents ahead of her 1995 Panorama interview and they played no part in her decision to speak on camera.
The BBC has claimed to have discovered a handwritten note from Princess Diana that appears to absolve journalist Martin Bashir of using false documents to influence her 1995 Panorama appearance (pictured)
Diana’s document refers to mocked-up bank statements which the corporation has said Mr Bashir (pictured left, and right during the interview) – who interviewed the royal – admitted commissioning as he tried to gain access to the princess
The BBC has said the note confirms the princess (pictured during the interview) had not seen the false financial documents ahead of her 1995 Panorama interview and they played no part in her decision to speak on camera
The mocked-up bank statements relate to a now ex-employee of Diana’s brother Earl Spencer.
But the princess’s sibling has accused Mr Bashir of showing him other made-up documents, relating to members of the royal household, to ingratiate himself with Diana.
Timeline of a scandal
August 31, 1995 – Earl Spencer meets Martin Bashir at Althorp, the family’s Northamptonshire home.
September 19 – He introduces Bashir to Diana at a flat in Kensington. Bashir, who critics claim was playing on the princess’s vulnerabilities, claims that MI6 is bugging her car and her home at Kensington Palace.
November 5 – The Panorama team arrive at Kensington Palace in great secrecy and conduct the interview.
November 20 – Panorama wins its largest ever audience – 23million – with the sensational programme.
Soon after the show is broadcast, Matt Wiessler, a graphics artist on Panaroma, tells his colleague Mark Killick that Bashir had told him to draft two faked bank statements. These purport to show payments of £10,500 to Allan Waller, Earl Spencer’s head of security.
Wiessler suspects that the faked documents were used to persuade Earl Spencer to introduce Bashir to his sister and to entice her to take part in the interview – because they would fuel Diana’s sense of paranoia.
December – On the night of the Panorama Christmas Party, Wiessler’s flat is burgled and the floppy disc containing the two fake bank statements is stolen. Killick’s flat is later also burgled.
April 7, 1996 – The Mail on Sunday details how the two faked bank statements were crucial factors in Princess Diana agreeing to the interview with Bashir.
April 29 – The BBC management board accepts Tony Hall’s investigation into Bashir’s conduct. Hall, the head of news and current affairs, and later director general, calls Bashir honest and contrite. But he insists that Wiessler, the whistleblower, will never work for the BBC again. He also pledged tough action against those who leak to the Press.
Earl Spencer says Bashir peddled 32 vile smears to Diana about her staff betraying her and the royals plotting against her, playing on her paranoia to win her trust.
Friends of the princess, including close confidante Rosa Monckton, have questioned whether the Bashir interview had an effect on the chain of events that ultimately led to her death in Paris on August 31, 1997.
She has recalled how Diana was consumed by conspiracy theories at the time, and only now realises they may have been fed to her by Bashir.
BBC director-general Tim Davie has already announced there will be an investigation into these alleged new documents relating to royal staff.
The corporation said in a statement: ‘Following the announcement of the independent investigation, the BBC has now recovered the princess’s original handwritten note which is referred to in our records from the time. We will pass it on to the independent investigation.
‘As there has been a lot of commentary about this note and journalists have asked about it, we thought it appropriate to put on record that we’ve now recovered it.
‘We will set out further details of the independent investigation shortly.’
In a recent tweet, the earl criticised the BBC over the Panorama affair saying the corporation was ‘incapable of honestly facing up to the ugly truth of this matter’.
While graphic designer Matt Wiessler – who mocked up the documents relating to the earl’s ex-employee – has said he was made a scapegoat by the BBC and called on the broadcaster to apologise.
In 1996, the BBC held an internal inquiry that examined claims Mr Bashir used false financial documents, purporting to show a then member of the earl’s staff was leaking stories, as a way to persuade the princess to talk.
The corporation has previously said in a statement that Mr Bashir admitted commissioning the mocked-up bank documents and it is understood the journalist was found to have ‘done wrong’ at the end of the process, but it is not known what sanction, if any, he faced.
The mocked-up bank statements relate to a now ex-employee of Diana’s brother Earl Spencer (pictured with Prince Harry)
There is no suggestion any of the individuals that were the subject of any of the financial documents were involved in any wrongdoing.
In an earlier statement, a BBC spokeswoman highlighted an apology the earl has received from the director-general over the mocked-up documents relating to his former employee.
The BBC has said that Mr Bashir, now the BBC’s religion editor, is seriously ill with Covid-related complications and unable to comment.