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Martin Bashir alleged Princess Diana supplied information in fake bank statements

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Princess Diana and Martin Bashir during the Panorama interview at Kensington Palace, 1995

Pool Photograph / Corbis via Getty Images

Over 25 years on from the famous Panorama interview given by the late Diana, Princess of Wales to the BBC’s Martin Bashir, fresh controversy is continuing to emerge. Last year saw a new wave of scrutiny on Bashir amid allegations that the journalist used unorthodox methods to obtain access to the royal. Now, it’s been reported that Bashir told the new Dyson report that it was Diana who gave him the information contained in forged bank statements, which he used to gain the confidence of her brother, Earl Spencer, in advance of the interview.

According to the Telegraph, Bashir claimed that the late Princess supplied the information used in the fake bank statements. The statements were considered as part of a six-month investigation led by retired judge Lord Dyson, a former Master of the Rolls, looking into allegations that the former BBC religion editor, who stepped down from his role last week, used unsanctioned means to secure the interview.

The statements reportedly showed false payments made from a newspaper and from an offshore company, with a combined total of £10,500, into the bank account of a company owned by Earl Spencer’s former security head, Alan Waller. Bashir has been accused of using the fake documents to gain the Earl’s trust in order to convince him to make an introduction to his sister.

Back in April 1996, the graphic designer who created the hoax statements at Bashir’s request, Matt Wiessler, was sacked, prompting subsequent allegations that he was used as a scapegoat. In November last year, the BBC commissioned Lord Dyson to launch a fresh investigation. His report was delivered over the weekend, just as news of Bashir’s resignation from his departure as religion editor, on grounds of ill-health, broke. The report is likely to be published this week.

Martin Bashir during a press briefing for the Panorama Special, 1995

Jeff Overs / BBC News & Current Affairs via Getty Images

Lord Dyson is seeking to establish whether the statements and other methods used by Bashir were key to him securing the interview – in which Diana uttered the now immortal line, ‘Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded’ – a reference to the Duchess of Cornwall, then Camilla Parker Bowles, and her affair with Prince Charles.

The Telegraph reports that Bashir defended his use of the mocked-up bank statements, arguing he only ordered their creation after having been given the information by Diana. He reportedly told Lord Dyson that it was the Princess who claimed payments were being made into Alan Waller’s account – although Bashir is said to have added that she later withdrew the allegations. It is said to be thought unlikely, however, that all the information came from the royal.

One of the companies which was alleged to have made payments to Waller was an offshore business, which Bashir himself became familiar with after a different Panorama investigation. Bashir is also believed to have told Lord Dyson that it was common practice at the time for journalists to use mocked-up bank statements, claiming that they were useful to file away in anticipation of any potential future Panorama probe.

Earl Spencer

Amanda Edwards / WireImage via Getty Images

Waller, meanwhile, has denied ever receiving such payments, telling the paper: ‘This man [Bashir] has become a multi-millionaire by using me. I am the fall guy. Bashir has effectively stolen my identity; stolen my banking information and then used it to frame me as the fall guy. That is exactly what he has done. He has framed me thinking I would never find out. It has had a devastating effect on me.’

Lord Dyson was granted access to BBC archives in the course of the investigation. He has also interviewed a number of key figures, including former BBC head of news Lord Hall, who subsequently went on to become director-general, before standing down in August 2020. The new report is expected to address allegations made by the Mail on Sunday that BBC executives were complicit in a cover-up of Bashir’s methods. Lord Hall was at the head of an initial 1996 inquiry into the methods used to obtain the interview, which has since been criticised as a ‘whitewash’.

The MailOnline references reports of a document that alleges BBC bosses attempted to remove Panorama staff who sought to expose Bashir’s tactics, alluding to a memo dubbing them ‘troublemakers’. The outlet cites ‘a source familiar with the new document’, which is said to be from the minutes of a news and current affairs board meeting, as claiming that executives discussed taking ‘disciplinary’ measures in response to whistleblowers.

It was reportedly added that they would need ‘proof’ to remove them, and could instead attempt to ‘pick off’ the individuals ‘one by one’. BBC sources who worked for the broadcasting company at the time are said to have alleged that those who voiced concerns about Bashir’s conduct were pushed off the show in the subsequent months.

The MailOnline adds that while Lord Dyson is thought to have had access to the document, it is not known whether he will allude to it in his new report. It appears to underscore another previously released dossier, which reportedly showed that senior figures had said they would ‘deal with leakers and remove persistent troublemakers’.

A new Panorama investigation into the furore surrounding the Diana interview had been set to air on 17 May. Investigative reporter John Ware reportedly spent some five months working on the 30-minute programme, which was due to be broadcast ahead of the Dyson report. The programme was reportedly pulled, however, on the instruction of director-general Tim Davie, last Friday – the day the news of Bashir’s departure as religion editor broke.

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Earl Spencer, who was interviewed on the new programme, took to Twitter to voice his frustration, commenting: ‘Well there’s a surprise. What’s next? My guess: a rush by the BBC Director General to get Lord Dyson’s report out, before its expected publication date on Friday, so he can claim, with apparent regret: “Sadly this Panorama is now no longer relevant”.’

It is now thought likely, however, that the programme will air after all, on the evening that the findings of the Dyson report will be made public. A BBC spokesman is quoted in the MailOnline as commenting that the postponement was made due to a ‘significant duty of care issue’ – thought to be a reference to Bashir, who has been in and out of hospital following a number of surgical procedures on his heart. A friend of Bashir reportedly stated that he was ‘very low’ and ‘very worried about Dyson’.

A spokesman for the BBC is quoted in the MailOnline as stating: ‘The BBC is determined to get to the truth about the circumstances surrounding the Panorama interview in 1995 and has commissioned Lord Dyson to carry out a fully independent investigation.’

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