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William and Harry: Diana was 'failed' by BBC and 'lost her life' because of Panorama interview

·Royal Correspondent
·7 min read
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Prince William has said the BBC "failed" his mother after a damning report released details of the way an explosive interview with Princess Diana was obtained by Martin Bashir.

William said the findings of the Dyson report, which looked into how Bashir was able to secure the interview with Diana in 1995, were "extremely concerning" particularly drawing on its conclusion that the reporter "lied and used fake documents" and "made lurid and false claims about the Royal Family" in the run up to the Panorama episode.

In a separate statement from his new home in California, Harry said Diana had "lost her life because of this".

 

Lord Dyson's report said Bashir was "devious and dishonest" in his use of fake bank statements to obtain access to Earl Spencer, Diana's brother, who then introduced him to Diana.

In the interview, she said the now famous line "well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded", about Camilla, who Charles went onto marry in 2005.

After the programme aired, Diana had to divorce Prince Charles, and saw the removal of her HRH title, and security. 

Diana, Princess Of Wales, Prince William And Prince Harry Visit 'Thorpe Park' Amusement Park. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
Diana, Princess Of Wales, Prince William and Prince Harry at 'Thorpe Park' Amusement Park. (Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)

Read more: BBC journalist lied and deceived Princess Diana to secure interview, bombshell report finds

In his blistering statement on Thursday evening, Prince William said: "It is my view that the deceitful way the interview was obtained substantially influenced what my mother said. The interview was a major contribution to making my parents’ relationship worse and has since hurt countless others.

"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.

"But what saddens me most, is that if the BBC had properly investigated the complaints and concerns first raised in 1995, my mother would have known that she had been deceived. She was failed not just by a rogue reporter, but by leaders at the BBC who looked the other way rather than asking the tough questions.

"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."

The 38-year-old added: "In an era of fake news, public service broadcasting and a free press have never been more important. These failings, identified by investigative journalists, not only let my mother down, and my family down; they let the public down too."

Martin Bashir arriving for the Pride of Britain Awards held at the The Grosvenor House Hotel, London. (Photo by Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images)
Martin Bashir at the Pride of Britain Awards in London in 2019. (Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images)

Read more: 7 of Princess Diana's explosive claims in BBC interview that tore royals in two

Prince Harry's statement said: "Our mother was an incredible woman who dedicated her life to service. She was resilient, brave, and unquestionably honest. 

"The ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life."

"To those who have taken some form of accountability, thank you for owning it. That is the first step towards justice and truth. Yet what deeply concerns me is that practices like these - and even worse - are still widespread today. 

"Then, and now, it’s bigger than one outlet, one network, or one publication. 

"Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed. By protecting her legacy, we protect everyone, and uphold the dignity with which she lived her life. Let’s remember who she was and what she stood for."

Watch: Key findings from Lord Dyson’s report into the Panorama Diana interview

In his response, which was timed for release for the same moment as his brother Harry, William also took note of the report's conclusion that the BBC "displayed woeful incompetence when investigating complaints and concerns about the programme" and "were evasive in their reporting to the media and covered up what they knew from their internal investigation".

The Dyson investigation was triggered when Earl Spencer, Diana's brother, raised fresh concerns about the methods used by Bashir to get to his sister, particularly because the earl had not been interviewed by the BBC when it conducted an inquiry in 1996.

Bashir issued an apology after the report was released, but said he remained "immensely proud" of the interview.

He said: "It is saddening that this single issue has been allowed to overshadow the princess’ 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."

The BBC has returned its Bafta, which it won in 1996 for the interview, and wrote to members of the Royal Family to apologise, including Princes Charles, William and Harry and Earl Spencer.

Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer (L) and his wife, Karen Spencer arrive for the wedding ceremony of Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and US actress Meghan Markle at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, in Windsor, on May 19, 2018. (Photo by Chris Jackson / POOL / AFP)        (Photo credit should read CHRIS JACKSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer (L) and his wife, Karen Spencer at Harry and Meghan's wedding in 2018. (Chris Jackson/AFP)

Speaking to a new Panorama programme, which was broadcast on Thursday evening after the release of the Dyson report, 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.

"It’s quite clear from the introduction that I sat in on the 19th of September 1995 everyone was going to be made untrustworthy, and I think that Diana did lose trust in really key people.

"This is a young girl in her mid-30s who has lived this extraordinarily turbulent and difficult time in the public eye.

"She didn’t know who to trust and in the end, when she died two years later, she was without any form of real protection."

Earl Spencer was approached by the Mail On Sunday in 1996 after it discovered fake bank statements were used by Bashir, but he declined to speak to them because he was settling into a more anonymous life in South Africa at the time.

However, the BBC conducted an internal investigation and failed to get in touch with him, something Lord Dyson heavily criticised in his report.

Lord Dyson said the 1996 probe was "woefully ineffective" and said they "did not scrutinise Mr Bashir’s account with the necessary degree of scepticism and caution".

Fake bank statements relating to News International and Penfold Consultants (Jersey), as published in an Annex to Lord Dyson's independent investigation into the circumstances around the programme. Issue date: Thursday May 20, 2021.
Fake bank statements relating to News International and Penfold Consultants (Jersey), as published in an Annex to Lord Dyson's independent investigation into the circumstances around the programme. (BBC/PA)
1/2 The letter written by the Princess of Wales to Martin Bashir after her 1995 Panorama interview with him, as published in an Annex to Lord Dyson's independent investigation into the circumstances around the programme. Issue date: Thursday May 20, 2021.
The letter written by the Princess of Wales to Martin Bashir after her 1995 Panorama interview with him, as published in an Annex to Lord Dyson's independent investigation into the circumstances around the programme. (PA/BBC)
2/2 The letter written by the Princess of Wales to Martin Bashir after her 1995 Panorama interview with him, as published in an Annex to Lord Dyson's independent investigation into the circumstances around the programme. Issue date: Thursday May 20, 2021.
The letter was written in defence of Bashir in 1995. (PA/BBC)

Former director-general Lord Tony Hall, who was director of BBC news and current affairs when the Diana interview was screened also apologised, saying he accepted the findings of the report and that the 1996 investigation "fell well short" of what was expected. 

Lord Dyson's report also concluded the princess would have been likely to have given an interview to the BBC anyway, but suggested she may have spoken to then diplomatic editor Nicholas Witchell rather than Bashir.

The princess, who died in 1997 at the age of 36, said she stood by the interview in a letter which was shared with the inquiry.

She wrote to the BBC in 1995 to say: "Martin Bashir did not show me any documents, nor give me any information that I was not previously aware of.

"I consented to the interview on Panorama without any undue pressure and have no regrets concerning the matter."

The letter was sent when BBC executives asked for evidence she had not been shown the statements. However, Earl Spencer's concern was that he would not have introduced her to Bashir if he had not been shown the statements.

Bashir told the 1996 inquiry that he had not shown them to anyone. 

Harry, 36, is set to next join his brother in London later this year when they are to unveil a statue of Diana in the sunken garden of Kensington Palace.

The event is planned for 1 July, which would have been her 60th birthday.

Watch: Princess Diana thought she was being followed, according to her biographer

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