The BBC is to investigate allegations made by Earl Spencer that he was shown “false bank statements” to encourage his sister Diana, Princess of Wales to give an interview to Panorama.
The interview was one of the biggest scoops of the 1990s when the princess told journalist Martin Bashir: “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” She was referring to Camilla Parker Bowles, who Prince Charles later wed.
The interview in 1995 came three years after the separation of the prince and princess, and a year before the couple’s divorce was completed.
The circumstances behind Princess Diana agreeing to be interviewed by Mr Bashir prompted a BBC investigation at the time and was also the subject of a recent Channel 4 documentary.
In the weeks before the programme, Earl Spencer was approached by Mr Bashir and, in what are believed to be new details, he now claims he was shown “false bank statements” that related to alleged payments made to two members of the royal household by the security services.
Whether other false documents relating to a former employee of the earl were produced was the subject of a BBC investigation at the time – as it tried to determine whether or not the princess had been misled – with a key piece of evidence, a note, suggesting she had not.
Now the BBC has said it will look again at the information following a private dialogue between the earl and the corporation.
The corporation’s recently appointed director general Tim Davie has apologised to the earl for the mocked-up documents 25-years ago, however, he has since asked for an apology “directed posthumously to Diana; to all who were so grossly lied to – including a global audience; and to me” in correspondence published in the Daily Mail.
A BBC spokesperson said Mr Bashir, now the BBC’s religion editor, is not in a position to respond to the earl’s allegations as he is seriously ill with Covid-related complications.
“The BBC has apologised. We are happy to repeat that apology. And while this was a quarter of a century ago, we absolutely will investigate – robustly and fairly – substantive new information,” she added.
“We have asked Earl Spencer to share further information with the BBC.
“Unfortunately, we are hampered at the moment by the simple fact that we are unable to discuss any of this with Martin Bashir, as he is seriously unwell. When he is well, we will of course hold an investigation into these new issues.”
The earl claims in his letter that the BBC’s earlier investigation into whether Diana had been misled, conducted by Lord Hall, then the director of BBC news and current affairs and later director general, was a “whitewash”.
He wrote: “I am now formally asking for the BBC to open an inquiry into this matter, and I hope that it will get to the bottom of key questions: why did Tony Hall’s inquiry not seek the truth from me?
“Why did it bend over backwards to whitewash Bashir? Who else knew the extent of his yellow journalism when securing what Hall calls ‘the interview of the decade… or of the generation’?”
However, the BBC maintains there is a written note from Diana stating she had not seen the false bank statements, and that they played no part in her decision to give the interview.
Additional reporting by agencies
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