BBC finds crucial handwritten note from Diana ahead of Panorama probe

A handwritten note from Diana, Princess of Wales that appears to absolve journalist Martin Bashir of using false documents to influence her Panorama appearance has been discovered by the BBC.

The corporation had said a copy of the princess's note was no longer in its possession and could not be produced for a 2007 Freedom of Information request – although its existence was documented in BBC records.

Diana's document refers to mocked-up bank statements which the corporation has said Mr Bashir, who interviewed the royal, admitted commissioning as he tried to gain access to the princess.

Diana with Bashir during the Panorama interview
Diana with Martin Bashir during the Panorama interview (PA)

But the BBC has said the note confirms the princess had not seen the false financial documents ahead of her 1995 Panorama interview and they played no part in her decision to speak on camera.

The mocked-up bank statements relate to a now ex-employee of Diana's brother the Earl Spencer, but the princess's sibling has accused Mr Bashir of showing him other made-up documents, relating to members of the royal household, to ingratiate himself with Diana.

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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)

BBC director-general Tim Davie has already announced there will be an investigation into these alleged new documents relating to royal staff.

The corporation said in a statement: "Following the announcement of the independent investigation, the BBC has now recovered the princess's original handwritten note which is referred to in our records from the time. We will pass it on to the independent investigation.

Graphic designer Matt Wiessler has accused the BBC of making him a scapegoat. John Hall/ITV
Graphic designer Matt Wiessler has accused the BBC of making him a scapegoat (John Hall/ITV/PA)

"As there has been a lot of commentary about this note and journalists have asked about it, we thought it appropriate to put on record that we've now recovered it.

"We will set out further details of the independent investigation shortly."

In a recent tweet, the earl criticised the BBC over the Panorama affair saying the corporation was "incapable of honestly facing up to the ugly truth of this matter".

While graphic designer Matt Wiessler, who mocked up the documents relating to the earl's ex-employee, has said he was made a scapegoat by the BBC, and called on the broadcaster to apologise.

In 1996, the BBC held an internal inquiry that examined claims Mr Bashir used false financial documents, purporting to show a then member of the earl's staff was leaking stories, as a way to persuade the princess to talk.

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 any of the individuals that were the subject of any of the financial documents were involved in any wrongdoing.

In an earlier statement, a BBC spokeswoman highlighted an apology the earl has received from the director-general over the mocked-up documents relating to his former employee.

The BBC has said that Mr Bashir, now the BBC's religion editor, is seriously ill with Covid-related complications and unable to comment.

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