BBC pays damages to whistleblower ‘smeared’ after Martin Bashir’s Princess Diana interview

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The BBC has said that it 'apologises unreservedly' to Mark Killick for the 'defamatory statements' made about him in the wake of the Martin Bashir interview with Diana, Princess of Wales
The BBC has said that it 'apologises unreservedly' to Mark Killick for the 'defamatory statements' made about him in the wake of the Martin Bashir interview with Diana, Princess of Wales

The BBC has agreed to pay “significant” damages to the former Panorama journalist who first raised concerns over Martin Bashir’s interview with Diana, Princess of Wales more than 25 years ago.

Mark Killick was sacked from the programme and then smeared by the BBC after complaining about Bashir’s methods in securing the 1995 interview. The Telegraph understands that Mr Killick has received £50,000 in compensation for “defamatory statements” made about him.

Mr Killick worked on Panorama at the time the interview was illicitly obtained. He first alerted the BBC to the existence of forged bank statements used to entice the Princess of Wales.

After blowing the whistle, Mr Killick said he was sacked due to "disloyalty" and then smeared by the broadcaster.

A report by Lord Dyson, the former Master of the Rolls, concluded that Bashir used “deceitful behaviour” to win over Princess Diana’s trust.

Mark Killick had raised concerns about Martin Bashir's famous interview with the Princess - BBC/PA wire
Mark Killick had raised concerns about Martin Bashir's famous interview with the Princess - BBC/PA wire

In a statement, the BBC said on Tuesday: "Following publication of the Dyson Report last year, the BBC and former BBC Panorama senior reporter and producer Mark Killick today announce that a settlement has been reached between them.

"The BBC apologises unreservedly for defamatory statements made of Mr Killick in 1996 in internal BBC documents during the corporation's investigations into events surrounding the interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.

"Mr Killick acted entirely properly in referring his concerns about Martin Bashir's interview with Diana, Princess of Wales to senior management.

"The BBC has agreed to pay Mr Killick a significant sum in damages and costs, and we wish him all the best for the future."

BBC's reputation 'may never recover'

Mr Killick said the comprehensive apology was a "positive step forward", but he feared the damage to the BBC's reputation "may never recover".

He said: "The BBC's attempt to try and destroy my reputation rather than investigate my concerns shows just how desperate the BBC was to hide what had happened.

"It was an extraordinary attempt to cover up wrongdoing and the climate of fear it created may well have stopped other BBC whistleblowers from speaking out for a generation.

"I still find it staggering that the BBC was so determined to conceal the truth that it launched a smear campaign against me to protect its tainted scoop.

"I am grateful to Tim Davie and his team for finally setting the record straight. But the damage to the BBC's reputation is immense and you can understand if BBC employees no longer have the courage to speak truth to power."

'Deceitful behaviour'

Lord Dyson was appointed to look into the circumstances surrounding the 1995 interview, which famously featured the Princess saying of her relationship with the Prince of Wales: "Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded."

The investigation was launched after Earl Spencer alleged that Bashir showed him fake financial documents.

The graphic artist who was employed by Bashir to fake the documents and was subsequently blacklisted by the corporation has already settled his claim for damages, receiving compensation of about £500,000.

Patrick Jephson, the Princess’ former private secretary, was awarded about £100,000 for “serious harm” over slurs spread by Bashir, again to win Diana’s trust.

The inquiry found that the BBC covered up "deceitful behaviour" used by Bashir to secure his headline-making world exclusive interview, and that it "fell short of high standards of integrity and transparency".

The 1995 interview was watched by 23 million people in the UK and won Bashir a Bafta in 1996.

After Lord Dyson's report was published, Bashir apologised, adding that it was "a stupid thing do to do" but that he will "always remain immensely proud of that interview".

Mr Killick is now creative director at Media Zoo. He also runs his own independent television production and public relations company.