The BBC has said it will hold a full independent investigation into how it secured the bombshell Princess Diana interview aired on Panorama in 1995.
The broadcaster confirmed that an external probe would examine how journalist Martin Bashir landed the famous chat with the Princess, in which she spoke candidly about her marriage.
The announcement comes after Diana’s brother Earl Charles Spencer accused the journalist of using ‘dirty tactics’, including producing fake documents, to win the trust of her family.
Tim Davie, the corporation’s director general, said: ‘The BBC is taking this very seriously and we want to get to the truth. We are in the process of commissioning a robust and independent investigation.’
The BBC has said it will hold a full independent investigation into how it secured the bombshell Princess Diana interview aired on Panorama in 1995
The broadcaster confirmed that am external probe would examine how journalist Martin Bashir (pictured right) landed the famous chat with the Princess, in which she spoke candidly about her marriage
The BBC boss confirmed the terms of the investigation would be announced in the coming days.
News of an independent probe emerged as the graphic designer behind the documents came forward to demand an apology from the BBC and accused them of ‘scapegoating’ him.
Matt Wiessler spoke about the impact the experience had on his life after he was reportedly asked by Mr Bashir in 1995 to create two bank statements, allegedly falsely showing that people were being paid for surveillance on the princess.
Speaking on television for the first time in new ITV documentary The Diana Interview: Revenge Of A Princess, Mr Wiessler told the programme-makers: ‘I’ve agreed to talk to you because I’m this guy that’s remembered for forging the document and I want to clear my name.’
Millions watched the Princess say ‘there are three of us in this marriage’ in her famous Panorama interview 25 years ago
The probe was announced as the graphic designer Matt Wiessler demanded an apology from the BBC for using him as a ‘scapegoat’ for mocking up documents allegedly used to secure a 1995 BBC Panorama interview with the Princess of Wales
He said he was ‘blacklisted’, his work dried up and he left the industry.
Mr Wiessler, 58, said: ‘I quite clearly felt that I was the one that was going to be the fall guy in this story.
‘All I want is for the BBC in this instance to come forward and honestly make an apology. Because it’s had a huge impact.’
Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, has criticised the BBC, saying he was shown ‘false bank statements’ by Mr Bashir to help him gain access to the princess.
The documents related to alleged payments made to two members of the royal household by the security services for information about the princess, the earl claims.
Martin Bashir (pictured), now the BBC’s religion editor, is seriously ill with Covid-related complications and is not in a position to respond to the earl’s allegations, the BBC has said.
He previously called for an independent inquiry and tweeted that the corporation was ‘incapable of honestly facing up to the ugly truth of this matter’.
The BBC’s anouncement of an independent probe today follows weeks of campaigning from Earl Spencer.
He claims Bashir repeatedly deceived him in order to gain access to the royal as her marriage to Prince Charles collapsed.
The subsequent interview made headlines around the world as millions of viewers watched her say ‘there are three of us in this marriage’.
Timeline of a scandal
August 31, 1995 – Earl Spencer meets Martin Bashir at Althorp, the family’s Northamptonshire home.
September 19 – He introduces Bashir to Diana at a flat in Kensington. Bashir, who critics claim was playing on the princess’s vulnerabilities, claims that MI6 is bugging her car and her home at Kensington Palace.
November 5 – The Panorama team arrive at Kensington Palace in great secrecy and conduct the interview.
November 20 – Panorama wins its largest ever audience – 23million – with the sensational programme.
Soon after the show is broadcast, Matt Wiessler, a graphics artist on Panaroma, tells his colleague Mark Killick that Bashir had told him to draft two faked bank statements. These purport to show payments of £10,500 to Allan Waller, Earl Spencer’s head of security.
Wiessler suspects that the faked documents were used to persuade Earl Spencer to introduce Bashir to his sister and to entice her to take part in the interview – because they would fuel Diana’s sense of paranoia.
December – On the night of the Panorama Christmas Party, Wiessler’s flat is burgled and the floppy disc containing the two fake bank statements is stolen. Killick’s flat is later also burgled.
April 7, 1996 – The Mail on Sunday details how the two faked bank statements were crucial factors in Princess Diana agreeing to the interview with Bashir.
April 29 – The BBC management board accepts Tony Hall’s investigation into Bashir’s conduct. Hall, the head of news and current affairs, and later director general, calls Bashir honest and contrite. But he insists that Wiessler, the whistleblower, will never work for the BBC again. He also pledged tough action against those who leak to the Press.
Her comments about the state of her marriage sent shockwaves through the monarchy and turbo-charged Bashir’s career, as he won praise for a major journalistic scoop.
The BBC has said Bashir is currently unable to answer questions as he is currently signed off work by his doctors.
It said the journalist, who currently works as the BBC’s religion editor, is recovering from quadruple heart bypass surgery in addition to having ‘significant complications’ after contracting Covid-19 earlier in the year.
Recounting his experience from 25 years ago, Mr Wiessler said he received a phone call from Mr Bashir in 1995 asking for a favour and stressing it was urgent and important.
‘Martin asked me to make up a couple of bank statements about people being paid to do surveillance that he needed the following day,’ he said.
‘And he did say that they were just going to be used as copies … I had never been briefed in that way before.’
He added: ‘There was a name on one of the statements that had been used in a previous Panorama programme I did with Martin and I just thought: ‘You can’t repeat the same name in two completely different projects.
‘It must mean that current project you’re working on is fake.’
He said his flat was later burgled and only two computer discs were taken – containing the back-up copies he made of the statements.
The BBC has said it will hold a new investigation into the fresh allegations.
An internal inquiry was held in 1996, but the earl claimed this was a ‘whitewash’.
Allegations that other false financial documents relating to a former employee of the earl were produced were examined by the original internal BBC investigation, 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.
The earl also accused former BBC director-general Lord Hall, who led the 1996 internal inquiry, of excluding him from that process.
The corporation’s inquiry examined claims that Mr Bashir had used false financial documents, purporting to show a then-member of the earl’s staff was leaking stories, as a way of persuading the princess to talk.
The BBC maintains there is a written note from Diana – although it no longer has a copy – attesting that she had not seen the false bank statements for her brother’s then-employee, and they played no part in her decision to give the interview.
The corporation has previously said in a statement that Mr Bashir admitted commissioning the mocked-up bank documents and it is understood the journalist was found to have ‘done wrong’ at the end of the process, but it is not known what sanction, if any, he faced.
There is no suggestion that any of the individuals who were the subject of any of the financial documents were involved in any wrongdoing.
The princess sent shockwaves through the monarchy when she said, during the prime-time TV interview: ‘There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded’ – a reference to Camilla Parker Bowles, whom the Prince of Wales later married.
She also questioned Charles’s suitability as king.
A month later, the Queen urged the separated Waleses to divorce, which they did in 1996.
The princess died in 1997 in a car crash in Paris.