BBC chief: We are taking Diana Panorama interview allegations ‘very seriously’

Diana

The BBC is taking the allegations surrounding Panorama's interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1995 "very seriously", its boss Tim Davie has said.

The director-general's comments came following allegations by Diana's brother Earl Spencer that he was shown "false bank statements" by Martin Bashir. He claimed these statements were used to help the reporter gain access to the princess.

The result was the explosive interview 25 years ago in which Diana famously said: "Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded."

Martin Bashir
Journalist Martin Bashir interviewed the princess for the controversial programme 25 years ago (Ian West/PA)

The BBC has said it will hold an independent investigation into the earl's allegations.

It added that Mr Bashir, now the BBC's religion editor, is seriously ill with Covid-related complications and is not in a position to respond.

In a statement, Mr Davie 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 broadcaster is expected to set out more details of the planned investigation in the coming days.

Diana
Diana, Princess of Wales, during her Panorama interview with Martin Bashir (PA)

Former BBC chairman Lord Grade said that there was "a very dark cloud hanging over BBC journalism" following the allegations.

The BBC claimed Diana had written a note saying she did not see the false bank statements and that they played no part in her decision to give the interview. However, the corporation said it no longer has a copy of the letter.

Lord Grade told BBC Radio 4 programme The World At One: "We've got to get into the timeline of who knew what when. Was the Diana letter also a forgery is the question that needs to be asked?

"There may well be very good answers and the BBC may well come out of this absolutely clean.

"But there are so many questions being raised.

"There's only one way to clear this up and that is with an independent inquiry to be published."

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Princess Diana
File photo dated 29/6/1994 of the Princess of Wales arriving at the Serpentine Gallery in London's Hyde Park to attend a gala dinner as its patron. Twenty-five years ago, the Princess of Wales stepped out in her "revenge dress".
Diana and the Queen snapped in good spirits.
TETBURY, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 18: Princess Diana Resting Her Head In Her Hands Whilst Sitting On The Steps Of Her Home At Highgrove, Gloucestershire. (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

The Princess of Wales rides in the passenger seat of a vintage Mercedes-Benz.

Princess Diana, Prince Harry, Prince William, Prince Charles at William's first day at Eton.
circa 1965: A young Lady Diana Spencer (1961 - 1997), later the wife of Prince Charles.
Prince Charles and his fiancee Lady Diana Spencer with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, 7th March 1981.
Prince Charles  and Lady Diana Spencer on their wedding day.
Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer on their wedding day.
Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales kissing his wife, Princess Diana (1961 - 1997), on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after their marriage.
Princess Diana on her wedding day.
(FILE PHOTO) The Prince and Princess of Wales leave St Paul's Cathedral after their wedding, 29th July 1981. She wears a wedding dress by David and Elizabeth Emmanuel and the Spencer family tiara.
A pregnant Princess of Wales joins the royal family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace for the Trooping of the Colour ceremony, June 1982. The Queen, Prince Philip, Princess Alexandra of Kent and Angus Ogilvy are among the group. 
(FILE PHOTO) The Princess of Wales attends a dinner held by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in Islamabad during her official visit to Pakistan, September 1991.
Princess Diana pictured in a tiara.

Diana looks deep in thought on her wedding day.

Princess Diana smiles for the cameras.
Princess Diana in a stylish evening gown.
Princess Diana and Prince Philip at a polo match in Windsor on July 26th , 1987.
Prince Charles and Princess Diana leave St. Mary’s Hospital in London, with Prince Harry on September 16, 1984.
Princess Diana with her sons William and Harry in 1995.
Princess Diana pictured in a stylish beret.
Princess Diana is snapped in India.
Princess Diana doing charity work.
Princess Diana holding Harry as a baby.
Princess Diana meeting members of the public.
Princess Diana poses in a bikini during a holiday.
Diana beams as she sits with William and Harry.
Princess Diana pictured with young William.
Princess Diana is seen holding hands with her two young sons William and Harry.
Princess Diana with William and Harry.
Diana with her sons in December 1995.
Diana pictured with Charles.

An adorable Prince William and Prince Harry can be seen standing beside their mother, Princess Diana, as a little girl gives flowers to the Queen Mother in 1991.

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, kissing Princess Diana, Princess of Wales, at a polo match.
Diana gets involved in a parents' day race.

Diana dazzles in a green frock.

Diana and Charles pictured at a glamorous evening event.
Diana and Charles pose for a formal picture.
Charles and Diana boarding a flight.
Charles and Diana as newlyweds.
Diana sporting a casual look.

Diana wears a tartan outfit to match Charles' kilt for a trip to Scotland.

A young Diana shows off sapphire sparkler.
Diana dazzles in white frock and tiara during trip to the Middle East.
Diana pictured with baby Harry.
Diana poses for pictures with members of the public during a walkabout.
Diana and Charles enjoy a family day out.
Diana pictured alongside a stern-faced Queen.
Diana pictured alongside Princess Anne.
TETBURY, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 18: Princess Diana Resting Her Head In Her Hands Whilst Sitting On The Steps Of Her Home At Highgrove, Gloucestershire. (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)
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He added: "The BBC is the gold standard of journalism in this country. For the BBC to be faking documents in the interest of getting a scoop raises very serious questions and the BBC needs to clean this up once and for all.

"Was it known by those editorially in charge of the BBC at the time that forged bank statements had been used or were tried to be used?

"Who knew and who knew when and was it covered up at the time? This is a very, very serious matter for the BBC, which holds itself in high esteem.

"It calls power to account in this country. It's the first one to call for independent inquiries when there's wrongdoing however long ago.

"But when it comes to the BBC itself being under question, the rules seem to change somewhat."

The statement comes after the graphic designer who mocked up the documents allegedly used to secure the interview with Diana said he was made "the fall guy" by the BBC, and called on the broadcaster to apologise.

Matt Wiessler spoke about the impact the experience had had on his life after he was reportedly asked by Mr Bashir to create two bank statements in 1995. He claimed these falsely showed that members of the royal household were being paid by security services to spy 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 he was "blacklisted", his work dried up and he left the industry.

Mr Wiessler 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."

He claimed his flat was burgled soon after the interview and only two computer discs were taken – containing the back-up copies he made of the statements.

An internal inquiry was held in 1996 into whether or not Diana was misled but the earl claimed this was a "whitewash".

The princess sent shockwaves through the monarchy after the interview, which included candid details about her marriage and the Prince of Wales's rumoured relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles, his now wife.

Diana also questioned Charles's suitability as king.

A month later, the Queen urged the separated couple to divorce, which they did in 1996.

The princess died in 1997 in a car crash in Paris.

– The Diana Interview: Revenge Of A Princess begins on ITV at 9pm on Monday November 9, with the second episode on Tuesday at the same time.

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