Martin Bashir Was "Deceitful" in Securing 1995 Princess Diana Interview, Probe Finds

A BBC-commissioned inquiry has found that former BBC journalist Martin Bashir used "deceitful behavior" to succeed in "engineering the meeting that led" to his bombshell interview with Princess Diana.

By Corinne Heller May 20, 2021 4:53 PMTags
Watch: Behind Princess Diana's Bombshell BBC Interview

An internal investigation has found that journalist Martin Bashir acted deceitfully regarding how he secured a bombshell 1995 interview with Princess Diana, in which the late royal opened up about her failed marriage to Prince Charles.

The inquiry began last November after Diana's brother Earl Charles Spencer called for one, claiming Bashir used forged bank statements made to wrongfully show that two senior aides were being paid by the U.K.'s Security Services for information on his sister, in order to coax him into introducing the journalist to her, BBC News reported. Earl Spencer also claimed on Twitter the BBC knew about the forgeries. Following a backlash, the company promised it would commission a "robust" investigation into how the journalist landed the interview. 

The results of the inquiry, carried out by retired judge Lord John Dyson and published on Thursday, May 20, found that Bashir "commissioned" fake bank statements purporting to show payments in the account of Earl Spencer's former head of security. The report said he showed them to Diana's brother and also "produced and showed" him bank statements made to look like they belonged to two former members of the royal household—"which contained information that had probably been fabricated by Mr. Bashir."

Princess Diana's 1995 BBC Interview Bombshells

"He acted as as to deceive Earl Spencer and induce him to arrange the meeting with Princess Diana," the report said. "By gaining access to Princess Diana in this way, he was able to persuade her to agree to give the interview."

The report added that "by acting as described...Mr. Bashir acted inappropriately and in serious breach of the 1993 edition of the Producers' Guidelines on straight dealing," referring to the BBC's editorial guidelines.

The BBC previously launched an internal investigation into the matter in 1996. Dyson said the probe, which cleared Bashir, Panorama and the BBC of wrongdoing, was "woefully ineffective." Following the recent publishing of the results of the second inquiry, Bashir issued a fresh apology.

"This is the second time that I have willingly fully co-operated with an investigation into events more than 25 years ago," Bashir said in a statement to U.K. press on Thursday. "I apologized then, and I do so again now, over the fact that I asked for bank statements to be mocked up. It was a stupid thing to do and was an action I deeply regret. But I absolutely stand by the evidence I gave a quarter of a century ago, and again more recently."

The BBC reported last week that Bashir has left the company. The group adding that the journalist, who most recently served as its religion editor, was departing due to ongoing health issues, adding that he has been absent from his role in recent months after contracting COVID-19 and undergoing quadruple bypass surgery.

Pool Photograph/Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

More than 20 million viewers watched his interview with Diana, which aired almost two years before she died in a car crash in 1997 at age 36. During her sit-down with Bashir, the Princess of Wales shocked viewers—and the royal family—when she broke her silence about her separation from Charles and rumors of infidelity, saying, "There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded," referring to his relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, his now-second wife.

In his report, Dyson also concluded that "By his deceitful behavior, therefore, Mr. Bashir succeeded in engineering the meeting that led to the interview. But it is important to add that Princess Diana would probably have agreed to be interviewed...even without the intervention of Mr. Bashir. It is clear that by early to mid-August 1995 at the latest, she was very keen on the idea...This was some time before Mr. Bashir's first meeting with Earl Spencer on 31 August 1995."

Dyson's report included a note the princess wrote in December 1995, a month after the interview aired, which Bashir found during a search of his home last November. It reads, "Martin Bashir did not show me any documents nor give me any information that I was not previously aware of. I consented to the interview on Panorama without any undue pressure and have no regrets."

The BBC's director general, Tim Davie, said in a statement, "Although the report states that Diana, Princess of Wales, was keen on the idea of an interview with the BBC, it is clear that the process for securing the interview fell far short of what audiences have a right to expect. We are very sorry for this. Lord Dyson has identified clear failings."

He continued, "While today's BBC has significantly better processes and procedures, those that existed at the time should have prevented the interview being secured in this way. The BBC should have made greater effort to get to the bottom of what happened at the time and been more transparent about what it knew. While the BBC cannot turn back the clock after a quarter of a century, we can make a full and unconditional apology. The BBC offers that today."

Davie also noted that the BBC Board welcomes the publication of Lord Dyson's report which it "unreservedly accepts." As he shared, "There were unacceptable failures. We take no comfort from the fact that these are historic. The BBC must uphold the highest possible standards. I want to thank Lord Dyson for the thoroughness and diligence of his work."

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BBC Chairman Richard Sharp added in a statement, "The BBC Board welcomes the publication of Lord Dyson's report which it unreservedly accepts. There were unacceptable failures. We take no comfort from the fact that these are historic. The BBC must uphold the highest possible standards. I want to thank Lord Dyson for the thoroughness and diligence of his work."

He continued, "The BBC is today writing to a number of individuals involved or linked to these events to apologize directly.  We recognize that it has taken far too long to get to the truth."

On Thursday, Earl Spencer posted a never-before-seen childhood photo of himself with his sister on Twitter, writing, "Some bonds go back a very long way."

He later tweeted, "I'd like to thank the TV journalist Andy Webb for his tireless professionalism in bringing the Bashir-Panorama-BBC scandal to light. If he hadn't have pursued this story for well over a decade, and shared his findings with me last October, today's findings wouldn't have surfaced."

Charles and Diana's sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, also issued statements about the probe's findings late on Thursday.