Princess Diana’s brother has called for a BBC inquiry over faked bank statements he says helped secure the sensational Panorama interview that shot journalist Martin Bashir to fame.
Charles Spencer has written to BBC director-general Tim Davie, in a letter reported by the Daily Mail, accusing Bashir of “yellow journalism” and saying “sheer dishonesty” was used to gain access to Diana for the famous programme, watched by millions in 1995.
The bank statements, seen by Earl Spencer ahead of the interview, wrongly purported to show that two senior courtiers were selling information on the princess, according to a report in The Sunday Times.
In his letter to Mr Davie, the earl said had he not seen the documents, he would not have introduced Bashir to his sister.
The BBC said in a statement sent to Sky News that it had previously apologised for the statements but that they “played no part” in Diana’s decision to take part in the interview.
It said the corporation would investigate “substantive new information” but is currently “hampered” by the fact Bashir is seriously ill and unable to discuss the claims.
Now the BBC News religion editor, Bashir, 57, is suffering from coronavirus complications, the corporation confirmed in October.
In his letter, Earl Spencer said Bashir had used the forged bank statements to persuade the princess into taking part in the interview, according to the Mail.
“If it were not for me seeing these statements, I would not have introduced Bashir to my sister,” he wrote.
“In turn, he would have remained just one of thousands of journalists hoping that he/she had a tiny chance of getting her to speak to them, with no realistic prospect of doing so.”
The earl also reportedly said he had a letter allegedly written by Bashir in 1995, in which the journalist referred to false rumours about the Prince of Wales having an affair with her children’s nanny, Tiggy Legge-Bourke.
In the Panorama interview, Diana lifted the lid on her troubled marriage and famously told Bashir that “there were three of us in this marriage”, referring to Prince Charles’s relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles.
A BBC spokesman said in a statement: “The BBC has apologised. We are happy to repeat that apology.
“And while this was a quarter of a century ago, we absolutely will investigate – robustly and fairly – substantive new information.”
The statement said further information had been requested from Earl Spencer.
It continued: “Unfortunately, we are hampered at the moment by the simple fact that we are unable to discuss any of this with Martin Bashir, as he is seriously unwell.
“When he is well, we will of course hold an investigation into these new issues.”
Bashir started his career as a journalist in 1986, and became a household name after interviewing Diana for Panorama.
His other high-profile work includes interviewing Michael Jackson in 2003 for the documentary Living With Michael Jackson, the author Jeffrey Archer and Major Charles Ingram – who was convicted of cheating on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?