Princess Diana’s brother said last night he was groomed by disgraced BBC reporter Martin Bashir, as he renewed his demand for Scotland Yard to investigate the broadcaster.
Writing exclusively for The Mail on Sunday, Earl Spencer urged the Metropolitan Police to ‘reconsider their responsibilities’ and launch a probe as he revealed lawyers had told him that ‘unlawful and criminal behaviour’ had been committed by figures at the BBC.
In a series of hard-hitting comments, Earl Spencer said only the police ‘have the power to get to the bottom of this terrible scandal’ as he detailed how Bashir deceived him over three weeks to get close to his sister.
His bombshell intervention comes days after the BBC paid out around £200,000 to former royal nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke for ‘shocking’ smears made against her by Bashir as part of his campaign to secure his now discredited 1995 Panorama interview with Diana.
Bashir showed Earl Spencer forged bank statements to gain access to the Princess and then tricked her by peddling a string of lies, including the slur that Prince Charles was having an affair with Ms Legge-Bourke – now Alexandra Pettifer – and that she became pregnant and had an abortion as a result.
Princess Diana sat down for an interview with BBC reporter Martin Bashir for Panorama that was aired on November 20, 1995. Bashir was subsequently disgraced over the deceitful method he used to gain access to the princess
Earl Spencer, 58, is determined to continue to wage his campaign to win justice for his sister. Pictured in 2021
Princess Diana photographed with her brother, Earl Spencer, at their home in Berkshire when they were children in 1968
Pictured: Princess Diana in 1995. Earl Spencer, 58, is determined to continue to wage his campaign to win justice for his sister after the force said it had ‘not identified evidence of activity that constituted a criminal offence and will therefore be taking no further action’
Last year, following a devastating report into the scandal by former Supreme Court Judge Lord Dyson, the Met considered whether to launch an investigation into a range of potential offences, including forgery, misconduct in public office and blackmail. But in September, the force said it had ‘not identified evidence of activity that constituted a criminal offence and will therefore be taking no further action’.
The decision has left Earl Spencer, 58, determined to continue to wage his campaign to win justice for his sister. He writes: ‘The question I am repeatedly asked by concerned members of the public, furious at what my sister was put through, is why have the police not prosecuted those involved for what various senior lawyers have told me is clearly unlawful and criminal behaviour?
‘I hope the police will reconsider their responsibilities in this matter. Only they have the power to get to the bottom of this terrible scandal, which led Diana to feel even more exposed and alone, and deceived her into forgoing those who cared for her and would have protected her.’
Earl Spencer’s insistence that the Met probe the scandal represents one of the first major tests for the force’s new Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley. It is also a devastating blow for BBC bosses hoping that a string of compensation payments to Bashir’s victims would allow the Corporation to move on from its biggest scandal.
The affair threatens to continue to dog BBC Director-General Tim Davie as he tries to save the licence fee and make swingeing cuts.
Bashir (left) showed Earl Spencer forged bank statements in 1995 to gain access to the Princess and then tricked her by peddling a string of lies. Alexandra Pettifer (right), better known as Tiggy Legge-Bourke, won substantial damages over ‘false and malicious’ allegations about her used to obtain Martin Bashir’s 1995 Panorama interview
Tunnel de l’Alma in Paris, which was the site of the car accident that killed Princess Diana on August 31, 1997. It was two years to the day after Earl Spencer first met Bashir that Diana was killed with ‘no Royal Protection Officers on hand, having chosen to dispense with the services of those who she should have been able to trust implicitly with her safety’
How the BBC was finally forced to admit Bashir deceit
AUGUST 31, 1995: BBC Panorama journalist Martin Bashir meets Earl Spencer and shows him fake bank statements that freelance designer Matt Wiessler mocked up for him.
SEP 19, 1995: The Earl introduces Bashir to Princess Diana.
NOV 5, 1995: The sensational Panorama interview with Diana is broadcast.
LATE NOVEMBER 1995: Wiessler expresses concern to Panorama’s series producer that the fake bank statements may have played a role in obtaining the interview. Bashir is asked for clarification.
DEC 22, 1995: Bashir passes a note from Diana to his bosses in which she says: ‘I was not shown any documents nor given any information by Martin Bashir that I was not already aware of.’
MAR 23, 1996: Bashir admits to BBC bosses that he had lied about not showing the fake bank statements to anybody. Yet two months later, he is sent a note – signed off by Tony Hall, then head of BBC News – that his dealings with Diana were ‘absolutely straight and fair’.
APR 7, 1996: The Mail on Sunday publishes a story about the fake statements. The BBC denies they were used to obtain the interview, but Hall opens an inquiry.
APR 25, 1996: Hall tells BBC governors that Bashir commissioned fake statements because ‘he wasn’t thinking’, adding: ‘I believe he is, even with this lapse, an honest and honourable man.’ Bashir leaves the BBC, but returns in 2016 as religious affairs editor.
AUG 28, 1996: Diana’s divorce from Prince Charles is finalised.
AUG 31, 1997: Diana dies in a car crash in Paris.
NOV 3, 2020: The Daily Mail publishes a letter written by Earl Spencer in which he accuses the BBC of ‘sheer dishonesty’.
NOV 18, 2020: The BBC asks former Supreme Court Justice Lord Dyson to independently investigate the scandal.
MAY 20, 2021: Lord Dyson’s report condemns Bashir as ‘dishonest’ and criticises Hall’s investigation as ‘flawed’. Prince William condemns the BBC’s ‘incompetence’.
JUL 21, 2022: The BBC pays about £200,000 to royal nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke and admits she was subjected to ‘baseless’ smears by Bashir.
The Panorama interview, watched by 23 million people, saw Diana declare ‘there were three of us in this marriage’ was a worldwide sensation. In April 1996, however, the MoS revealed that Bashir had faked private bank documents just weeks before the interview. Those statements suggested Earl Spencer’s former head of security was receiving money from a tabloid newspaper and the security services to spy on Earl Spencer and Diana.
The Earl says: ‘I feel that I was groomed… shown forged bank statements; I was told of undferhand payments, of spying, and of appalling deception. But, all along I was the one being deceived in order for Mr Bashir to get to my late sister.’
Using his pet name for her, he recalls how, after the three met in September 1995, he tried to warn her about some of the holes he had spotted in Bashir’s stories. ‘After Bashir left, I said, ‘I’m sorry, Duch – I’ve wasted your time – what that man has just said doesn’t add up’.’ He says his sister was ‘extremely vulnerable’ when she met Bashir because her secrets were appearing in the press. He assumed he would never hear from Bashir again and was shocked when, a few weeks later, the BBC announced that it had landed its Panorama interview with the Princess.
The Bashir scandal was reignited in November 2020 when the Daily Mail published revelations about the deception the BBC reporter deployed to obtain his scoop.
Then, in May 2021, Lord Dyson’s damning report found that an internal inquiry into Bashir in 1996, led by Lord Hall, who was then head of news and current affairs and later became the Corporation’s Director-General, had been woefully ineffective. It also ruled that the BBC had covered up what it knew. In his article today, Earl Spencer questions ‘who else at the BBC knew of Mr Bashir’s work at the time?’ He adds: ‘In a story of such unique importance as this, it is reasonable to believe that the chain of command must have gone very high indeed – beyond Panorama to the upper reaches of the BBC.’
He highlights that two years to the day after he first met Bashir, Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris with ‘no Royal Protection Officers on hand, having chosen to dispense with the services of those who she should have been able to trust implicitly with her safety’.
In devastating comments, he links the Panorama interview – which only took place because of Bashir’s lies – with her death. ‘The agonising lies that she was told by the BBC before their cameras finally rolled ensured that she came into that Panorama interview with a very skewed and false view of the situation she was in, having been lied to repeatedly,’ he writes.
‘This led to her speaking in a way that set her on a course where she was without due protection when she needed it most. All those responsible must be held to account.’
Last night the BBC declined to comment on Earl Spencer’s article, referring instead to an apology made last week by Mr Davie after it was announced that it had agreed to pay Mrs Pettifer ‘substantial damages’.
‘Now we know about the shocking way that the interview was obtained I have decided the BBC will never show the programme again; nor will we license it in whole or part to other broadcasters,’ he said.
Mrs Pettifer’s payout follows those to graphic artist Matt Wiessler, who was made a scapegoat by the BBC after Bashir asked him to forge bank statements, producer Mark Killick and Diana’s private secretary Patrick Jephson, whom Bashir falsely claimed was paid to leak information about the Princess.
EARL SPENCER: My sister was the victim of an appalling deception that left her alone, more exposed and in danger
Earl Spencer (pictured) urged the Metropolitan Police to ‘reconsider their responsibilities’ and launch a probe
By Earl Spencer
Twenty-seven years ago this summer, I received a letter on BBC Panorama writing paper from Martin Bashir, a man I had never heard of, asking to see me. In his letter, he reassured me by saying that he had senior colleagues at the BBC who could vouch for him.
At the time I was reporting for NBC, the American network, and we often worked alongside the BBC, who were our news partners. I had the greatest respect for the BBC, and knew Panorama to be its flagship programme.
Mr Bashir and I had our first meeting on August 31, 1995. Two years later, to the day, my youngest sister would be dead – killed in a car crash, with no royal protection officers on hand, having chosen to dispense with the services of those who she should have been able to trust implicitly with her safety.
What Mr Bashir told me was shocking – a series of tales so extraordinary that, as soon as he left, I called Panorama’s executive producer, who confirmed it was all true and that I could trust Mr Bashir.
Over the following three weeks I feel that I was groomed: I was shown forged bank statements; I was told of underhand payments, of spying, and of appalling deception. But, all along I was the one being deceived in order for Mr Bashir to get to my late sister, through me.
At this time, Diana was extremely vulnerable. She was finding that some of her secrets, shared only with close friends, were appearing in the Press. She was understandably rattled by this. Looking back, I suspect she was a very early victim of ‘phone-hacking’ by unknown perpetrators, but nobody knew about this criminal practice in 1995, so she was accepting of the outrageous claims that dark forces were at work.
On September 19, 1995, I introduced Diana to Mr Bashir. In that meeting, I was struck by a number of discrepancies between what he told my late sister and what he had told me previously. After Mr Bashir left, I said, ‘I’m sorry, Duch – I’ve wasted your time. What that man has just said doesn’t add up’, and highlighted some of the discrepancies with what he’d told me before. She said, ‘Don’t worry, Carlos [her name for me], it doesn’t matter – it was lovely to see you anyway.’ ‘
When we parted that afternoon, I assumed I’d never hear anything about Mr Bashir again.
When the BBC trumpeted that they had secured their Panorama interview with my sister, a few weeks later, it was the first I knew that anything had resulted from that troubling meeting. The programme was in the can. The BBC’s settlement last week with Alexandra Pettifer (Tiggy Legge-Bourke), the nanny of my sister’s children, once again shone a light on the appalling, deceitful conduct of those pursuing the interview.
‘While Mr Bashir is, of course, held up for his unspeakable conduct, serious questions remain about others at the BBC. First, who else at the BBC knew of Mr Bashir’s work at the time?
In a story of such unique importance as this, it is reasonable to believe that the chain of command must have gone very high indeed – beyond Panorama to the upper reaches of the BBC.
When there was what the BBC termed an investigation into the matter in the spring of 1996, into how the interview was procured, senior managers in the BBC knew that I was the go-between that introduced Diana to their reporter. Yet they chose not to let me know of the investigation at all. Who, therefore, chose not to approach me for my evidence? Why did they not want to hear it? Who were they covering for?
In 2005, the BBC approached me to be interviewed for a programme they were making to celebrate the tenth anniversary of what they still saw as their Panorama coup.
I wrote back saying I was stunned that they wanted to celebrate a programme that had been secured by such dishonest means. I copied the then director-general into my reply, telling him I was happy to share my evidence of the BBC’s conduct. I heard nothing back from him or his BBC colleagues.
My friend Andy Webb – a top investigative journalist who has pursued the truth in this matter for many years – has been greeted with a set of defences by the BBC’s lawyers that stretches credulity. But one thing I know for sure is that there is so much more that has not been revealed, that shows even murkier depths that the BBC stooped to in order to get its interview with Diana. It’s time for that to come out. Hopefully that will be a matter for the police, and I am here to help them.
The question I am repeatedly asked by concerned members of the public, furious at what my sister was put through, is: why have the police not prosecuted those involved for what various senior lawyers have told me is clearly unlawful and criminal behaviour?
I hope the police will reconsider their responsibilities in this matter. Only they have the power to get to the bottom of this terrible scandal, which led Diana to feel even more exposed and alone, and deceived her into forgoing those who cared for her and would have protected her.
She may well have chosen to grant the media an interview anyway – and if she had, I’d have fully supported her – but the agonising lies that she was told by the BBC before their cameras finally rolled ensured that she came into that Panorama interview with a very skewed and false view of the situation she was in, having been lied to repeatedly.
This led to her speaking in a way that set her on a course where she was without due protection when she needed it most.
All those responsible must be held to account.