One of Princess Diana’s closest friends last night accused the BBC of ‘making a lot of money’ from a ‘criminal offence’.
Rosa Monckton praised Prince William for standing up for his mother – and welcomed the new inquiry into how Diana was ‘coerced’ into giving her famous Panorama interview.
Miss Monckton said reporter Martin Bashir’s ‘dishonest’ methods for clinching his 1995 exclusive ‘did change the course of history’.
Diana, who died two years later, had become ‘jumpy’ and ‘edgy’ and thought she was being followed after Bashir fed her callous lies about MI5 and Prince Charles, her friend said.
Rosa Monckton, one of Princess Diana’s closest friends, last night accused the BBC of ‘making a lot of money’ from a ‘criminal offence’. Pictured: Miss Monckton with Diana in 1993
The BBC has commissioned retired judge Lord Dyson to investigate the scandal.
His appointment was welcomed by the Duke of Cambridge, who was 13 at the time of the interview.
He wanted an authoritative figure to investigate the disturbing claims of dishonesty in how the BBC obtained its exclusive with his mother.
It came as Ofcom warned the BBC it will ‘closely follow’ Lord Dyson’s inquiry.
The media watchdog said it was ‘essential’ that concerns raised about the interview were ‘investigated thoroughly’, adding it did not have the remit to launch its own investigation.
Chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes has written to BBC director-general Tim Davie, telling him it was ‘important that the BBC holds itself to account, openly and transparently’ when addressing historic allegations of editorial failings.
Miss Monckton said reporter Martin Bashir’s ‘dishonest’ methods for clinching his 1995 exclusive ‘did change the course of history’
In an explosive interview on ITV News last night, Miss Monckton said: ‘For (William) and for Kensington Palace to issue a statement, I think shows how deeply involved he has become in this story and about how his mother was treated.
‘It’s very important that we look at it 25 years on. It did change the course of history.
‘I know people are saying she would have done an interview anyway, but she hadn’t and she didn’t and… she always said no.’
Bashir is accused of feeding Diana a string of lies about the royals and courtiers to gain her trust.
He allegedly said her staff were betraying her to MI5 and newspapers, that Prince Charles was having an affair with nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke and had plotted the ‘end game’, and dozens of other baseless smears.
He allegedly gained access to Diana by showing her brother Earl Spencer forged bank statements indicating his staff were being bribed.
The BBC is said to have banked £1 million from selling the rights to the Diana interview around the world. There have been calls for Scotland Yard to investigate
Miss Monckton said: ‘The fact that she was coerced into doing this, in such a dishonest way…
‘Look what happened to the News of the World – (it) closed down because they committed a criminal act by tapping people’s telephones, and the editor went to prison. The BBC has made a lot of money from this programme.
‘Bashir’s career has ridden on this programme. But they used fraudulent documents to persuade Diana to do this. That also is a criminal offence.’
The BBC is said to have banked £1 million from selling the rights to the Diana interview around the world. There have been calls for Scotland Yard to investigate.
In her interview last night, Miss Monckton said Bashir’s alleged grooming of the princess coincided with a change in her friend.
She added: ‘She was jumpy, she was edgy, she thought she was being followed. I mean really, extraordinarily different. Everybody knew something was wrong but none of us could put a finger on it.
Miss Monckton praised Prince William for standing up for his mother – and welcomed the new inquiry into how Diana was ‘coerced’ into giving her famous Panorama interview
‘There is no doubt in my mind at all. Mr Bashir had persuaded her that she was doing a good thing, that everybody was conspiring against her, the security service etc.
And she took it all in. She was vulnerable. It was a disgusting and disgraceful thing to do.
‘All that matters is he is a major part of the inquiry. Whatever damage has been done to the Royal Family, damage to our national broadcaster has been much worse.’
Last night the BBC declined to respond to the ITV interview.
The corporation has been praised for hiring former Supreme Court judge Lord Dyson to ‘unearth the truth’, with the Duke of Cambridge welcoming it as a step towards ‘establishing the truth’.
But it emerged yesterday that Bashir will not have to give evidence to the new inquiry, because Lord Dyson will have no power to force him.
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)
Although sources have indicated that Bashir, 57, will cooperate, there is nothing to stop him ignoring an invitation to attend or refusing to answer questions.
A key allegation is that the BBC’s religion editor ordered blameless graphic designer Matt Wiessler to forge the bank statements.
Former Metropolitan Police head of royal protection Dai Davies said: ‘If I was advising Bashir, I would tell him to say absolutely nothing.
‘You do have a right not to incriminate yourself, and he would be advised to remain silent.
‘Unless he has a good explanation, or just a complete denial, then he is going to find it difficult to answer detailed questions about that night he got the BBC graphics artist to make fake bank statements.
Miss Monckton, pictured with Diana in 1993, said ‘Bashir’s career has ridden on this programme. But they used fraudulent documents to persuade Diana to do this. That also is a criminal offence’
‘If he says, “Yeah, I did get that bloke to forge them’, then he risks effectively admitting to a criminal offence.”
Mr Wiessler – who was unfairly sacked from the BBC – declined to comment, but a source suggested he was concerned that a retired judge – rather than the police – was being asked to look into ‘a possibly criminal matter’.
Julian Darrall, a partner at London law firm Wiggin, said: ‘Since Lord Dyson’s investigation has been commissioned by the BBC, rather than a government department under the Inquiries Act 2005, it will have no statutory power to compel anyone to attend.’
Scotland Yard has declined to comment, but sources said if Lord Dyson makes findings of criminality, it would be taken seriously.
A key allegation is that the BBC’s religion editor ordered blameless graphic designer Matt Wiessler (pictured) to forge bank statements which Bashir then showed to Diana’s brother Earl Spencer to gain access to her