The BBC has promised a ‘robust investigation’ with ‘appropriate independence’ into allegations that their journalist Martin Bashir manufactured a slew of false evidence and lies in order to win his notorious Panorama interview with Princess Diana.
As far as I’m concerned, as a former policeman, Royal Protection officer and now an international investigator, that is not nearly good enough.
In fact, it looks like another desperate attempt by the broadcaster to sweep this whole sorry business under the rug.
The BBC has promised a ‘robust investigation’ into allegations that their journalist Martin Bashir manufactured false evidence in order to win his Panorama interview with Princess Diana (pictured)
Indeed, the only proper response would be a full police investigation.
For Earl Spencer’s detailed claims require an investigation into whether Bashir committed fraud and whether his BBC bosses knew about his actions and assisted him in what may amount to criminal actions.
If these allegations were made about any newspaper, it is very likely that officers would already be conducting dawn raids on the homes of journalists, seizing evidence and arresting suspects.
And so for the BBC to expect to avoid their responsibilities with such a vague pledge to investigate itself is outrageous.
It is my view that under the Theft Act of 1968, which was in force during the Nineties, it was an offence to obtain money or ‘pecuniary advantage’ by deception. (It still is an offence, but the relevant laws are now governed by the Fraud Act of 2006.)
I would also maintain that Bashir’s (pictured) behaviour may have contributed to events that led to Diana’s death in 1997, writes Dai Davies
Also under Section 1 of the Forgery Act of 1981 it is a clear offence to procure falsified financial documents – as Bashir allegedly did when he paid freelance graphic designer Matt Weissler to produce fake bank statements.
If this is correct then not only should Bashir be in the dock but, if proven, the senior managers who encouraged and assisted him in these offences too.
In fact, if it can be shown that they knew what Bashir was doing, then it follows that the apparently flimsy investigation headed by Tony Hall in 1996, when he was head of news at the BBC, should be called into question and the police should be urgently investigating.
The fact that this all dates back to a 25-year-old interview is no excuse. Lasting damage was done to the Royal Family, and by connection this country, with the repercussions still being felt today.
I would also maintain that Bashir’s behaviour may have contributed to events that led to Diana’s death in 1997.
Given Diana’s vulnerable psychological state in 1994 and 1995, nothing but disaster could ever have come from feeding lies to her, as is alleged.
He is alleged to have claimed that Charles (who was still her husband at the time) was having an affair with her sons’ nanny, Tiggy Legge-Bourke, or the unimaginably painful suggestion that her son, William, was being used to spy on her through a listening device in his watch.
It may well have been these lies that triggered a notorious scene at a Royal staff Christmas party at the Lanesborough Hotel in 1995, when Diana marched across to Tiggy and declared, loudly enough for the whole room to hear: ‘So sorry to hear about the baby.’
Rumours, all entirely untrue, had been swirling since the preceding August that Tiggy had been pregnant and aborted the foetus – the implication being that the father was Charles.
It cannot be emphasised enough that this was false, yet Diana apparently believed it.
She even told friends, and put it in a letter via her solicitors, that she feared Charles was planning to have her killed, so that he could marry Tiggy.
There can be little doubt that her paranoia was very real.
For Earl Spencer’s (pictured) detailed claims require an investigation into whether Bashir committed fraud
I experienced it first hand: her opening words to me when I took over as head of Royal Protection, several months before that fateful interview, were, ‘You poor man, do you know what you’ve taken on?’
This was not a light-hearted remark – she seemed to be hinting heavily that dark forces would be arraigned against me.
And so to fuel her fears would have been a monstrous thing to do.
In my line of work, you learn not to take any crime personally, and I will regard Bashir, if the allegations are proven, as just another villain to have crossed my path in half a century.
But his cruelty to Diana would be hard for me to forgive.
Certainly her sons must see it that way too. They both cried after that interview was broadcast, and I believe it helped to sow the seeds of the deep antipathy both princes now feel towards the media.
Ultimately, Bashir’s alleged lies left Diana convinced that she could trust no one.
Believing that MI5 had bugged her rooms, she had a former royal protection officer sweep every inch for listening devices, not once but three times.
It is not hard to imagine that this paranoia was one of the forces that drove her into the arms of the Fayed family.
Dodi could not possibly be suspected of colluding against her and, after all, he was far too rich to be susceptible to bribes from the security services.
In her mind, these may have been important factors, delusional as they were.
Moreover, without the interview, Diana may not have been expelled from the protective royal sphere.
Perhaps her and Charles m ay never have divorced. Whatever the truth, the terrible result of her relationship with Dodi was her death in Paris, less than two years after the Panorama interview.
It would appear the balance of her mind had been callously disturbed.
I do not believe it is an exaggeration to say that her life might have played out very differently, and she might even be alive today, if her insecurities had not been so heightened by the factors that led to her giving an interview to Bashir for the TV documentary.
And for that, a mere internal investigation by the BBC, no matter how ‘robust’, is not nearly sufficient.
- Former Chief Superintendent Dai Davies is an ex-head of Royal Protection