Duke of Cambridge: The BBC fuelled my mother’s paranoia

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LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 15: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Director-General of The BBC Lord Tony Hall accompanies Prince William, Duke of Cambridge as he visits The BBC to view the work the broadcaster is doing as a key member of his Taskforce on the Prevention of Cyberbullying at BBC Broadcasting House on November 15, 2018 in London, E - Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 15: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Director-General of The BBC Lord Tony Hall accompanies Prince William, Duke of Cambridge as he visits The BBC to view the work the broadcaster is doing as a key member of his Taskforce on the Prevention of Cyberbullying at BBC Broadcasting House on November 15, 2018 in London, E - Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

The Duke of Cambridge has said it brought him “indescribable sadness” that Martin Bashir’s BBC interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, had “contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation” in the final years of her life.

Prince William blamed the "failures" of BBC bosses for the harm done to his mother, after a landmark inquiry concluded that Bashir used "deceitful behaviour" in a "serious breach" of the broadcaster's guidelines to secure the 1995 Panorama interview with the princess.

After a six-month inquiry, Lord Dyson, a former master of the Rolls, also accused the BBC of effectively covering up Bashir's wrong-doing.

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The Duke of Sussex went further than his brother in a separate statement, and directly linked the interview to their mother’s death.

Prince Harry said: “The ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life. Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed.”

On Thursday night, following publication of the report, Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, threatened an overhaul of the broadcaster.

The Dukes each issued a rare personal statement following publication of the report.

Prince William said the interview had destroyed his parents’ relationship and had "since hurt countless others".

He added: “It brings indescribable sadness to know that the BBC’s failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those final years with her.”

The Duke of Cambridge said the Princess had been failed “not just by a rogue reporter, but by leaders at the BBC who looked the other way rather than asking the tough questions”.

Bashir interview ‘should never be aired again’

While the Duke of Cambridge stopped short of directly linking the interview to his mother’s death, his uncle, Earl Spencer said he "draws a line" connecting his sister meeting Bashir and her death two years later.

In a video statement, the Duke added: “It is my firm view that this Panorama programme holds no legitimacy and should never be aired again.

“It effectively established a false narrative which, for over a quarter of a century, has been commercialised by the BBC and others.”

He said these failings “not only let my mother down, and my family down; they let the public down too.”

The BBC now faces further scrutiny.

Mr Dowden said: “Lord Dyson’s report reveals damning failings at the heart of the BBC. We will now reflect on Lord Dyson's thorough report and consider whether further governance reforms at the BBC are needed in the mid-term Charter review.

“I welcome the fact that the new leadership launched this independent inquiry and expect them to ensure that this can never happen again.”

BBC boss’s apology to the Queen over reporter’s ‘lurid’ claims

Tim Davie, the BBC’s director-general, has sent letters of apology to the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry, in an attempt to limit the damage caused by Bashir’s deceit.

“Martin Bashir employed lies and faked documents to gain access to the princess,” wrote Mr Davie. “We also accept he made a series of lurid and untrue claims about the Prince of Wales, members of his staff and other members of the Royal family and that Martin Bashir did so intending to play on the Princess’s fears in order to arouse her interest in him and without concern for the impact on those he maligned.”

Letters of apology were also sent to Earl Spencer and to Alan Waller, the Earl’s former head of security, whose bank statements were faked by Bashir.

Another was sent to Matt Wiessler, the freelance graphic artist, ordered to mock up the statements by Mr Bashir.

The BBC said it was returning a number of awards won by Panorama for the world exclusive interview in which Princess Diana told Bashir “there were three of us in this marriage so it was a bit crowded”, in reference to Prince Charles’s infidelity with Camilla Parker-Bowles.

Earl’s list of 38 allegations, smears and lies

In a Panorama investigation into the programme’s own failings 25 years ago, broadcast on Thursday, Earl Spencer said: "The irony is that I met Martin Bashir on the 31st of August 1995, because exactly two years later she died, and I do draw a line between the two events.”

He said that claims made by Bashir at his first meeting with Princess Diana just over a fortnight later had led her to doubt everybody around her who was “made untrustworthy”.

. Earl Spencer, The Princess of Wales's brother, supplied the inquiry with eight pages of notes which he made of a conversation between Bashir and Princess Diana
. Earl Spencer, The Princess of Wales's brother, supplied the inquiry with eight pages of notes which he made of a conversation between Bashir and Princess Diana

Earl Spencer noted down 38 allegations, smears and lies told by Bashir to his sister and that she had “died two years later… without any form of real protection”.

Lord Dyson concluded that Bashir had shown Earl Spencer fake bank statements that “deceived and induced him to arrange a meeting with Princess Diana”.

Lord Dyson said this behaviour was a “serious breach” of BBC guidelines.

BBC bosses accused of cover-up

The retired judge accused senior BBC executives at the time, including Lord Hall, later promoted to director-general, of effectively presiding over a cover up by failing to investigate Bashir’s “deceitful behaviour” when questions began to emerge over his conduct in the weeks and months after the interview.

Lord Dyson said Bashir had "lied three times" in insisting he had never shown the faked bank statements linked to Waller and said he was not a "credible witness" to his inquiry.

Lord Dyson said that in 1996 when an internal investigation was launched by the BBC, Lord Hall was wrong to conclude Bashir was an “honest and honourable man… in the light of his serious and unexplained lies” over the mocking up of the Waller bank statements.

Lord Dyson concluded Bashir commissioned documents purporting to show payments into the bank account of Mr Waller and also Commander Patrick Jephson, Diana's private secretary, and Commander Richard Aylard, private secretary to the Prince of Wales.

But the former judge also said he believed Princess Diana “would probably have agreed to be interviewed by any experienced and reputable reporter in whom she had confidence even without the intervention of Mr Bashir”.

Bashir: I apologised then, and I do so again now

Bashir, who has resigned as the BBC’s religion editor on grounds of ill health, issued a statement on Thursday, the first time he has spoken since facing renewed allegations of wrongdoing six months ago on the 25th anniversary of the interview.

In his statement, he said: “This is the second time that I have willingly and fully co-operated with an investigation into events more than 25 years ago.

"I apologised then, and I do so again now, over the fact that I asked for bank statements to be mocked up. It was a stupid thing to do and was an action I deeply regret. But I absolutely stand-by the evidence I gave a quarter of a century ago, and again more recently.”

He insisted “that the bank statements had no bearing whatsoever on the personal choice by Princess Diana to take part in the interview” and pointed to the letter reproduced for the first time from Princess Diana in which she said she had "no regrets" about the interview and had never been shown any faked statements.

Mr Bashir added: “It is saddening that this single issue has been allowed to overshadow the Princess’s brave decision to tell her story, to courageously talk through the difficulties she faced, and, to help address the silence and stigma that surrounded mental health issues all those years ago.

"She led the way in addressing so many of these issues and that’s why I will always remain immensely proud of that interview.”

Bashir had denied much of the evidence given to the inquiry by Earl Spencer and insisted that he had been shown Mr Waller’s original bank statements, which he had then used as the basis for his mocked up statements showing false payments.

The Earl denied providing the original statements and Lord Dyson believed his version of events.

In a handwritten note, which was part of the evidence in the inquiry, the Princess said Bashir did not show her any documents or give her any information 'that I was not previously aware of'
In a handwritten note, which was part of the evidence in the inquiry, the Princess said Bashir did not show her any documents or give her any information 'that I was not previously aware of'

In the handwritten note from Diana on Kensington Palace notepaper, which was part of the evidence in the inquiry, the Princess said Bashir did not show her any documents or give her any information "that I was not previously aware of".

She said she took part in the interview "without any undue pressure" and had "no regrets concerning the matter".

BBC review ‘fell well short’

Lord Hall, who was director of BBC news and current affairs in 1995, has expressed his regret. He said: "I have read Lord Dyson's report and I accept that our investigation 25 years ago into how Panorama secured the interview with Princess Diana fell well short of what was required.

"In hindsight, there were further steps we could and should have taken following complaints about Martin Bashir's conduct.

"I was wrong to give Martin Bashir the benefit of the doubt, basing that judgment as I did on what appeared to be deep remorse on his part.”

Deluge of legal claims could ensue

The BBC could now be facing a deluge of legal claims over the scandal, the original Panorama whistle-blower revealed.

Mark Killick, the producer who was sacked within 24 hours of alerting BBC bosses to the forged documents in 1996, said Mr Davie had taken an important first step in commissioning the report but the “generic apology” he had issued did not go far enough.

Mr Killick said “like many others” he was consulting lawyers and that several of his BBC colleagues, Earl Spencer, Patrick Jephson, Diana’s Private Secretary, Tiggy Legge-Bourke, William and Harry’s nanny, and other members of Palace staff had all suffered “colossal damage” as a result of the actions of Mr Bashir and the BBC.

“What the BBC did 25 years ago sent out a clear message – do not whistle blow,” Mr Killick told the Telegraph. “That culture of fear they engendered has echoed throughout the years and I believe prevented people speaking up in other BBC scandals.”

Mr Jephson, whose bank statements were faked, said: "After so many years it is a relief to know more of the truth behind events which had so many unhappy and even tragic consequences.

"I am grateful to Lord Spencer, Lord Dyson and the tenacious journalists who brought the story to light. I also acknowledge the BBC's full apology which I received from the director-general this afternoon."

On Thursday, Mr Wiessler said in a statement that “after a quarter of a century of cover-ups and smears, it's good to know the truth is finally out that I acted with integrity and responsibly from day one.

“By blowing the whistle on the deception, I suffered the fate of the fall guy.”

The graphic designer, who never worked for the BBC again, said that the broadcaster’s investigation after he raised the alarm “had a devastating effect” on his career and professional reputation.

He described the probe as “seriously flawed and a smokescreen to protect Bashir”.

Mr Wiessler added: “I hope those responsible for the cover-up will now do the right thing and apologise to me. Tim Davie's attempted apology is so bland as to be meaningless.

“So much damage has been done, not only to me but also to Princess Diana and her family. I would also like to thank the tenacious journalists whose dogged pursuit of the truth brought this to light."

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