An investigation has found that a BBC journalist used “deceitful behavior” to secure an explosive interview with Princess Diana in 1995, in a “serious breach” of the broadcaster’s guidelines.
The probe came after Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, made renewed complaints that journalist Martin Bashir used false documents and other dishonest tactics to persuade Diana to agree to the interview.
Earl Spencer has said he “draws a line” between the interview and the events leading to his sister’s death.
Diana famously said in the interview that “there were three of us in this marriage,” referring to Prince Charles’ relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles.
The BBC’s chairman said the corporation accepted the findings published Thursday and acknowledged “unacceptable failures”. Bashir left the BBC last week on health grounds. He apologised for forging the documents.
The investigation was launched into Bashir and BBC bosses over how the then-unknown journalist managed to bag the 1995 royal scoop.
The six-month inquiry conducted by Lord Dyson found the BBC “did not scrutinise” Bashir despite knowing he lied three times.
It also confirmed the journalist used “deceitful behaviour” to get interview and commissioned fake bank statements.
The scathing report also said the BBC “fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark”.
Spencer previously said Bashir had used forged bank statements to convince Diana to do the interview.
He said the papers wrongly documented two senior courtiers were paid by the security services for information on his sister. The false documents implied associates of the royal family were selling stories to newspapers.
Spencer said if he hadn’t seen the bank statements he would not have made the introduction and the scoop wouldn’t have happened.
He also claimed he was – falsely – told Diana was under surveillance and those close to her were plotting against her, all to make her feel increasingly paranoid.
Ahead of the publication, Spencer shared a black and white family photograph of himself and Diana as children. He posted the image on Twitter alongside the words: “Some bonds go back a very long way.”
The picture shows the siblings sitting side by side in the summer sun, with a young Charles Spencer wearing trunks and Diana appearing to be in a swimsuit.
Spencer told Panorama: “The irony is that I met Martin Bashir on the 31st of August 1995, because exactly two years later she died, and I do draw a line between the two events.
“It’s quite clear from the introduction that I sat in on the 19th of September 1995 everyone was going to be made untrustworthy, and I think that Diana did lose trust in really key people.”
The BBC said it has now written to “a number of people”, including Prince William, Prince Harry, Charles and Spencer, who were involved in or linked to the events which took place in 1995, to apologise directly.
“We recognise that it has taken far too long to get to the truth,” the organisation said.
BBC chairman Richard Sharp said: “There were unacceptable failures. We take no comfort from the fact that these are historic. The BBC must uphold the highest possible standards.”
Bashir has also issued an apology, saying it was a “stupid thing to do and was an action I deeply regret” but believes Diana still would have done the interview and stood by the evidence.
Scotland Yard said in March Bashir wouldn’t face a police investigation over the faked documents.
Former BBC director-general Lord Hall investigated Bashir in 1996 after questions were first raised over how he secured the bombshell interview with Diana.
Hall said he accepts an original inquiry into the interview “fell well short of what was required” and he was “wrong to give Martin Bashir the benefit of the doubt”.
“I have read Lord Dyson’s report, and I accept that our investigation 25 years ago into how Panorama secured the interview with Princess Diana fell well short of what was required.”
It’s alleged that Bashir issued 32 lies and smears to the princess to clinch his Panorama chat in 1995, in which Diana famously said: “There were three of us in this marriage”.
In the interview, she also questioned Charles’ suitability as king and admitted to infidelity with Army captain James Hewitt.
Bashir quit the BBC on health grounds earlier this month, where he held the position of the broadcaster’s religion editor.
The BBC has said he is too ill to be interviewed.
Harry and William have both welcomed the inquiry.
William said in a statement: “The independent investigation is a step in the right direction.
“It should help establish the truth behind the actions that led to the Panorama interview and subsequent decisions taken by those in the BBC at the time.” – AP and agencies
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