BBC appoint former judge as they investigate fake bank statements in Diana's Panorama interview

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·4 min read
Martin Bashir interviews Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program Panorama. (Photo by © Pool Photograph/Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
Martin Bashir interviews Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program Panorama in 1995. (Corbis via Getty Images)

The BBC has appointed a former judge to lead the investigation into the impact of fake bank statements on the decision by the late Princess of Wales to give an interview to Panorama.

Diana spoke to Martin Bashir 25 years ago about her marriage to Prince Charles, in an interview which became the catalyst for their divorce in 1996.

Diana made her famous statement “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded” during the interview.

Despite it taking place more than two decades ago, the interview has come under fresh scrutiny as Diana’s brother, Charles, who is the current Earl Spencer, has called into question the methods used by Bashir to secure the interview.

The BBC pledged to investigate, and announced on Wednesday it had appointed Lord Dyson to lead the investigation.

Tim Davie, BBC Director-General, says: “The BBC is determined to get to the truth about these events and that is why we have commissioned an independent investigation. Formerly Master of the Rolls and a Justice of the Supreme Court, Lord Dyson is an eminent and highly respected figure who will lead a thorough process.”

The new Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, at The Royal Courts of Justice,The Strand, London.   (Photo by Lewis Whyld/PA Images via Getty Images)
Lord Dyson, will lead the investigation into the interview. (Lewis Whyld/PA Images)

Read more: Princess Diana 'thought she was being followed', according to her former butler

Lord Dyson says: “This is an important investigation which I will start straight away. I will ensure it is both thorough and fair.”

The investigation will set out to answer the following questions, the BBC has said:

  1. What steps did the BBC and in particular Martin Bashir take with a view to obtaining the Panorama interview on 20 November 1995 with Diana, Princess of Wales? This will involve a consideration of all the relevant evidence including (i) the mocked up bank statements purporting to show payments to a former employee of Earl Spencer (ii) the purported payments to members of the Royal Households; and (iii) the other matters recently raised by Earl Spencer not limited to the matters published in the Daily Mail on 7 November 2020.

  2. Were those steps appropriate, having regard in particular to the BBC’s editorial standards prevailing at the time?

  3. To what extent did the actions of the BBC and in particular Martin Bashir influence Diana, Princess of Wales’s decision to give an interview?

  4. What knowledge did the BBC have in 1995 and 1996 of the relevant evidence referred to at paragraph 1 above?

  5. Having regard to what was known at the time of its investigation in 1995 and 1996, how effectively did the BBC investigate the circumstances leading to the interview?

The BBC is to hand over all relevant records for the investigation and will publish the results.

The records will include a recently unearthed letter from Diana which the BBC says clears them of wrongdoing.

Bashir, who the BBC has said is unwell and recovering from COVID-19, had a graphic designer create fake bank statements which appeared to show former staff members of Earl Spencer were paid informants.

Watch: Graphic designer demands BBC apology over Diana’s Panorama interview

Read more: Princess Diana's brother says BBC is not facing up to 'ugly truth' of Panorama interview

Earl Spencer says the bank statements led him to introduce Bashir to his sister, which led to her doing the interview with Panorama.

But the BBC says the princess did not see the statements herself and was not influenced by them.

The BBC carried out an investigation in 1996 which concluded “wasn’t a very good idea to have these documents made”.

The inquiry, led by Lord Hall said there had been “steps to ensure that the graphic designer will not work for the BBC again”.

The earl said he was not part of the 1996 investigation, and that he didn’t even know it was happening.

Earl Spencer also said the BBC is not facing up to the “ugly truth” of the interview, while friends of Diana have said she thought she was being followed and watched at the time she was approached by Bashir.

The Queen urged Diana and Charles to divorce following the Panorama interview, which they did in 1996. They had separated in 1992.

Charles had already admitted to infidelity in an interview in 1994, saying he only cheated when the marriage had broken down irretrievably.

Diana died in a car crash in Paris in 1997.

Watch: BBC to hold investigation into Diana interview