BBC inquiry into Diana interview scrutinises note written by royal praising Martin Bashir


Diana’s mystery note at heart of Bashir probe ‘heaps praise on the shamed BBC journalist’, claim insiders – after it went missing for 20 years and was suddenly found as investigation reopened

  • Note went missing for more than 20 years after a staff member took it home 
  • BBC is using it as tool to suggest Diana never saw faked financial documents
  • Letter also purports to praise the BBC’s shamed religion editor Martin Bashir 
  • Lord Dyson will now see the letter as part of his investigation into the interview

The BBC inquiry into Martin Bashir’s 1995 interview with Princess Diana is scrutinising a handwritten letter from the royal which apparently showers the shamed journalist with praise.

The note went missing for more than 20 years after an over-eager panorama staff member took it home as a valuable souvenir – but handed it in last month.

Now, the BBC is using it as a tool to suggest that Diana never saw faked financial documents – commissioned by Mr Bashir – to convince her to speak on Panorama.

The BBC inquiry into Martin Bashir’s 1995 interview (pictured) with Princess Diana is scrutinising a handwritten letter from the royal which apparently showers the shamed journalist with praise 

The BBC is using the letter as a tool to suggest that Diana (pictured during the interview) never saw faked financial documents – commissioned by Mr Bashir – to convince her to speak on Panorama

The five key areas the BBC inquiry into the Martin Bashir scandal will cover  

Lord Dyson has been asked to investigate and report back on five key areas. 

He will interview BBC staff and have access to all their records. 

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?

The letter on Kensington Palace stationery also purports to heap praise on the BBC’s shamed religion editor, who is currently on sick leave after developing Covid-19-related complications.

The contents of the letter has not been made public, but was examined by a previous 1996 internal BBC investigation into the circumstances surrounding Diana’s TV appearance. 

Lord Dyson – a retired judge and former master of the rolls – will now see the letter as part of his investigation to discover what steps the BBC and Mr Bashir took to land the Panorama interview with Diana in 1995.

A documentary about Panorama’s history claimed the letter reads something along the lines of: ‘This is to confirm that I gave you the interview freely and was not influenced by any documents.’ 

Diana’s brother Earl Spencer has alleged Mr Bashir showed him fake financial documents and told untrue stories about the royal family to gain access to her.  

The fake documents falsely suggested Diana’s then private secretary – and another royal household member – were being paid by the security services to spy on the princess, something that played on Diana’s fears about her safety and privacy.

Former BBC director-general Lord Hall led a 1996 internal BBC investigation into the circumstances surrounding Diana’s Panorama appearance, which sent shockwaves through the royal family with her revelations about the state of her marriage. 

The corporation has previously said in a statement that Mr Bashir admitted commissioning the mocked-up bank documents – relating to the earl’s employee -and it is understood the journalist was found to have ‘done wrong’ at the end of the process.

It is not known what sanction, if any, he faced.

Mr Bashir, now the BBC’s religion editor, is seriously ill with Covid-19-related complications and is not in a position to respond to the earl’s allegations, the BBC has said.

Diana's brother Earl Spencer (pictured) has alleged Mr Bashir showed him fake financial documents and told untrue stories about the royal family to gain access to Diana

Martin Bashir in February 2020

Diana’s brother Earl Spencer (left) has alleged Mr Bashir (right) showed him fake financial documents and told untrue stories about the royal family to gain access to Diana 

A spokeswoman for the corporation previously said: ‘A lot has been written and broadcast about the Princess of Wales’s interview in recent weeks. It is important that we have a view of what happened based on the evidence of everyone involved. Clearly that has not yet been able to happen.

‘But to be absolutely clear, the BBC is determined to get to the truth of what happened. That’s why we have appointed Lord Dyson to lead a fully independent investigation.

‘It is vital that everyone with information shares that with Lord Dyson, so that he can investigate thoroughly and draw his conclusions having heard all the evidence.’

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