Prince William today welcomed a probe into Martin Bashir’s Panorama interview with his mother Princess Diana, saying ‘it should help establish the truth’ over the BBC’s decisions.
The Duke of Cambridge dubbed Lord Dyson’s independent investigation into whether Mr Bashir conned his mother into their notorious 1995 Panorama interview ‘a step in the right direction.’
William, who was a teenager when the interview took place, today said: ‘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.’
Former Supreme Court judge Lord Dyson was unveiled by the BBC as the eminent head of a probe into allegations of forgery, deceit and cover-up surrounding Mr Bashir’s scoop with Diana.
The journalist allegedly peddled 32 lies and vile smears to the vulnerable princess to clinch his explosive 1995 Panorama interview in which she famously said: ‘There were three of us in this marriage.’
The interview, in which Diana also admitted her infidelity with army captain James Hewitt, was watched by 23 million people and sent shockwaves through the Royal Family.
It led to the Queen demanding that Charles and Diana swiftly divorce. The princess died in a car crash in August 1997, long after she had lost her royal protection officers.
The Duke of Cambridge dubbed the independent investigation into whether Martin Bashir conned his mother into their notorious 1995 Panorama interview ‘a step in the right direction’
Princess Diana watches the Women’s Singles final at Wimbledon with a young Prince William
The journalist (pictured) allegedly peddled 32 lies and vile smears to the vulnerable princess to clinch his explosive 1995 Panorama interview in which she famously said: ‘There were three of us in this marriage’
Lord Dyson, 77, who stood as Master of the Rolls between 2012 and 2016, has said he will start his inquiry ‘straight away’ by interviewing corporation staff and having access to available records.
He also promised Mr Bashir a ‘thorough and fair’ investigation following sensational claims the journalist secured the Princess of Wales’s trust by faking two bank statements.
A source close to the Duke of Cambridge said: ‘Well of course this is in part about protecting his mother’s legacy, so it is a very personal matter for William.
‘He has kept a close eye on what’s unfolded but believes things are moving in the right direction.
‘The BBC has kept him informed appropriately. In the end, what he wants is the same as everyone else – for the truth to be unearthed and any appropriate action taken.’
It is understood Prince William has maintained channels of communication with the BBC over the past fortnight amid a series of bombshell allegations about the circumstances of his mother’s interview.
This has kept pressure on the broadcaster to ensure it found an authoritative enough figure to probe his concerns about how his mother was treated.
The BBC approved Lord Dyson’s appointment on Wednesday after new Director General Tim Davie ordered an independent inquiry into allegations Mr Bashir fed Diana a string of lies and smears to obtain his exclusive interview with her.
Lord Dyson will also probe how much BBC bosses knew at the time and whether there was a cover-up and said: ‘This is an important investigation which I will start straight away. I will ensure it is both thorough and fair’.
Diana, Princess of Wales, during her world exclusive Panorama interview with Martin Bashir for the BBC on November 20, 1995
Retired judge Lord Dyson (left) will run the independent inquiry into whether Mr Bashir used dirty tricks to con Princess Diana into the 1995 Panorama interview. Mr Bashir won a Bafta for the show (right)
Diana’s brother Earl Spencer – who has been demanding an inquiry into the ‘sheer dishonesty’ – today told friends he was pleased such a senior retired judge had been appointed.
Mr Davie added: ‘The BBC is determined to get to the truth about these events and that is why we have commissioned an independent investigation.
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?
‘Formerly Master of the Rolls and a Justice of the Supreme Court, Lord Dyson is an eminent and highly respected figure who will lead a thorough process.’
Bashir, who is now religion editor at the BBC, is currently signed off from work.
A statement from the corporation said: ‘He is currently recovering from quadruple heart bypass surgery and has significant complications from having contracted Covid-19 earlier in the year.’
Veteran BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell is among the journalists expected to appear before the inquiry having been ‘deeply disturbed’ by their colleague’s alleged dirty tactics.
Mr Witchell, 67, who worked on Panorama in the 1990s, and several other senior BBC staff are said to have been ‘deeply disturbed’ by claims Mr Bashir allegedly spun an outlandish web of deceit to win Diana’s trust – and secure the bombshell interview.
The BBC’s current royal correspondent had reportedly arranged to meet Diana to discuss a TV interview about the changing role of the monarchy and how her children William and Harry would fit in.
The plan was ‘put on ice’ when Mr Witchell was sent away on assignment and promoted diplomatic correspondent – but it was handed to Mr Bashir who is alleged to have used unscrupulous tactics to secure the interview.
To secure his interview, Mr Bashir allegedly said her bodyguard was plotting against her, her friends were betraying her and MI6 had taped Charles and his private secretary planning the ‘end game’.
He is said to have falsely claimed Charles and nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke went on a secret holiday together and that the heir to the throne was ‘in love’ with her.
Mr Bashir allegedly lied that Prince Edward was having treatment for Aids and the Queen was a ‘comfort eater’ with ‘heart problems’.
Her brother, Earl Spencer, kept meticulous notes which are expected to form key evidence in the inquiry.
At an earlier meeting, Mr Bashir showed him fake bank statements he ordered a blameless BBC graphics artist to forge, purporting to show Earl Spencer’s security head was in the pocket of a newspaper group.
Mr Witchell is said to have been ‘furious’ when Mr Bashir’s alleged deceit emerged, and is now set to give evidence to the inquiry into it, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Michael Jackson was lured into his disastrous interview with Mr Bashir because he thought ‘if Princess Diana trusted him, [he] could too’, it was claimed on Tuesday.
The journalist was seen returning home this month carrying an Indian takeaway and wine. Mr Bashir, 57, the BBC’s religious affairs editor, has not responded to requests for comment.
In February 1996 Bashir was feted at the Royal Television Society’s annual journalism awards ceremony for the interview that made headlines around the world
The pop star’s lawyer said Jackson would never have done the documentary with Bashir unless he believed it would be ‘positive’.
The 2003 expose turned into a public relations disaster for the troubled singer and culminated in him facing child molestation charges in 2005.
Top British retired judge chosen to lead BBC’s Bashir inquiry once called Boris Johnson a risk-taker who ‘chances his arm’ in love child case
Lord Dyson was Master of the Rolls – the name Britain’s top Court of Appeal judge – for four years until he retired in October 2016.
Famously in 2013 he ruled that the public had the right to know about the Prime Minister’s love child has now described him as a risk taker who ‘chances his arm’.
Lord Dyson was one of three judges who decided that the press had the right to reveal that Boris Johnson had fathered a daughter outside of his marriage.
The judges rejected an argument from Helen Macintyre, Mr Johnson’s former lover and the mother of the child, that the girl’s existence should be kept secret.
He was a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom from April 2010 until October 2012.
And before that he was a Lord Justice of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales from 2001 until 2010 after stints at the High Court.
Lord Dyson was called to the Bar by the Middle Temple in 1968.
Tom Mesereau, who successfully defended the musician at the trial, claimed Jackson – who died in 2009 – had told him the journalist promised to portray him positively like the famous Diana interview.
From his office in Los Angeles, Mr Mesereau told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘I have always been troubled by how Mr Bashir managed to get into Michael Jackson’s graces and gain his trust.
‘He thought if Princess Diana trusted him, Michael could too. Michael told me he was led to believe this would be a very positive interview, and he trusted Mr Bashir to follow through [with this] but he was greatly disappointed.’
The British journalist spent eight months with the Thriller star before making the ITV documentary ‘Living with Michael Jackson,’ in which the entertainer admitted sharing his bed with children.
Bashir and former BBC chiefs are now facing an inquiry into a string of alleged lies and smears he reportedly fed Diana to obtain his 1995 exclusive interview with her.
Yesterday former director-general Lord Hall welcomed his successor Tim Davie’s decision to commission the ‘robust and independent’ investigation.
Lord Hall was head of news when Diana gave her interview, and he presided over an inquiry at the time that was dubbed a ‘whitewash’.
But he told the Sunday Times he was ‘pleased’ allegations Mr Bashir used dishonest methods would be investigated, adding: ‘I want these things to be looked at.’ There is also a growing clamour for a police investigation, after the BBC acknowledged Bashir had shown ‘mocked up’ bank statements to Earl Spencer when trying to persuade him to introduce him to his sister Diana.
Former police officers including Dai Davies, ex head of royal protection, say Scotland Yard should run the new probe. And Peter Bleksley, a founder member of Scotland Yard’s undercover unit, backed the idea, saying: ‘They have to establish criminal intent. Was there an intention to trick someone or persuade someone to do something because of these documents?
‘Earl Spencer is absolutely crucial to any criminal inquiry because he may be the person who was coerced into doing something. There would have to be some kind of financial advantage proven.’
The innocent graphics designer who unwittingly helped Mr Bashir create the phoney bank statements – and was fired while Mr Bashir collected awards – believes the BBC journalist’s historic interview helped set her on a fateful path culminating in her death.
Matt Wiessler, who was sacked from the BBC after details of his role in making the bank statements emerged. Mr Bashir is the BBC’s religious affairs editor
Bashir clinched his access to the princess via her brother, Earl Spencer, who says the journalist showed him copies of bank statements (pictured) which purported to be from the private account of his head of security, Alan Waller. They apparently showed – falsely – that he was receiving money from a newspaper group and a mysterious offshore company
At her funeral, Matt Wiessler stood in The Mall. He said: ‘I felt like I needed to pay my respects because somehow I contributed.’
BBC veteran Jonathan Dimbleby, one of the targets of Bashir’s smears, welcomed the inquiry yesterday, describing the Panorama affair as ‘the bizarre and awful story of Martin Bashir’s insinuating himself into the confidence of a troubled woman’. He said getting an interview ‘should never involve deception and lies’.
Mr Bashir, 57, the BBC’s religious affairs editor, has not responded to requests for comment.
A BBC source told the Mail: ‘At no stage has anyone at the BBC admitted forgery or any other criminality.’
The man ‘too ill’ to help BBC inquiry: Martin Bashir is pictured out and about after broadcaster said he’s off work with ‘significant complications from having Covid’
By Sam Greenhill, Chief Reporter for the Daily Mail and Paul Revoir for the Daily Mail
Martin Bashir was looking ‘fit and well’ as he charged up his electric-powered Mercedes after fleeing London.
The under-fire journalist spent half an hour re-charging his SUV at a petrol station.
An onlooker said: ‘He looked slim and fit, and was walking around no problem. He was with his wife and she got some coffees and they sat talking for a while as the car got its charge. He didn’t seem to have a care in the world.’
Bashir and his family left London last Friday. Removal men packed up their £2million home in Maida Vale.
Martin Bashir was looking ‘fit and well’ as he charged up his electric-powered Mercedes after fleeing London
The under-fire journalist spent half an hour re-charging his SUV at a petrol station. Bashir and his family left London last Friday. Removal men packed up their £2million home in Maida Vale
The house is in the process of being sold, according to filings at the Land Registry.
The 57-year-old BBC religion editor has privately told his work colleagues that the Princess Diana scandal is a ‘sad way to retire’.
A source at the BBC said: ‘He is obviously never going to report for us again.’
Bashir is currently on sick leave from his post, after being struck by coronavirus in the summer and later undergoing a quadruple heart bypass operation.
The BBC said it was unable to ask him any questions about the Diana claims because of his ill health, but he is expected to take part in Lord Dyson’s inquiry.
Asked for an update on Bashir’s health, a BBC spokesman said yesterday: ‘Martin Bashir is signed off work by his doctors – he is currently recovering from quadruple heart bypass surgery and has significant complications from having contracted Covid-19 earlier in the year.’