Diana Martin Bashir

Diana Interview: BBC hits back at claims Martin Bashir’s forged documents influenced ‘iconic’ Panorama episode

It aired on Channel 4 last night

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Diana: The Truth Behind the Interview shocked Channel 4 viewers last night as it claimed forged documents were part of the reason Diana agreed to her famous interview with Martin Bashir.

In 1995, Diana stunned the world when she spoke candidly about her struggles with bulimia and her failed marriage to Prince Charles on BBC’s Panorama.

Diana: The Truth Behind the Interview aired on Channel 4 last night (Credit: Channel 4)

What happened on Diana: The Truth Behind the Interview

Channel 4’s documentary, aired on Wednesday (October 21) evening, claimed journalist Martin Bashir had fake bank statements that a graphic artist created.

The documents supposedly showed how a member of staff to Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, had betrayed him by spying on him.

The narrator on Diana: The Truth Behind the Interview said: “Martin Bashir has never talked publicly about how he got his exclusive. The BBC itself has said amazingly little about how it pulled off the greatest journalistic coup in its 100-year history.”

The documentary claimed Martin Bashir used to fake bank statements to help him get an interview with Diana (Credit: Channel 4)

Irrational fears of spying

Author John Birt, former BBC director-general, said in his book The Harder Path that Bashir “told us he [knew] a former member of the intelligence services who claimed that Diana’s private apartments in Kensington palace were bugged”.

He said she also feared some of her staff were working as agents, either for other royals or for newspapers.

Read more: Princess Diana ‘said marriage to Prince Charles was hell from day one,’ claims royal expert

Diana was growing increasingly paranoid that there was a campaign to ruin her.

Patrick Jephson, Diana’s Private Secretary from 1988 to 1996, explained: “[People encouraged Diana] to believe things that were not helping her to maintain a clear grasp of reality.”

Diana, he said, was susceptible to “believing unlikely things”.

Diana: The Truth Behind the Interview said the late royal was ‘susceptible to believing unlikely things’ (Credit: Channel 4)

What did the Channel 4 documentary say about the bank statements?

According to the Channel 4 documentary, Bashir showed the statements to Charles Spencer, who went on to introduce him to Diana.

However, the documents later turned out to be fake, as a whistleblower at the time said he had created them himself.

The narrator in Channel 4’s documentary asked: “Isn’t forgery a crime?”

The programme centred on Diana’s Panorama interview (Credit: Channel 4)

What did viewers say about the Diana documentary and the BBC?

Reacting to the documentary on Twitter, viewers slammed the BBC, calling the claims ‘not a good look’ for the broadcaster.

One said: “That was never going to be a happy tale but some shocking revelations there. I used to have so much respect for the BBC… #dianatheinterview.”

She believed things that were not helping her to maintain a clear grasp of reality.

In another tweet, they wrote: “Wow, that’s not a good look for the BBC #dianatheinterview.”

Someone else tweeted: “Why are the BBC so eerily silent? #dianatheinterview.”

A fourth said: “Watching #Diana: The Truth Behind the Interview @channel4. It suggests they ‘tricked’ her into the interview with ‘lies’ and falsifications by @BBC. Is this true? #Panorama #dianatheinterview.”

How has the BBC responded to the claims?

However, the BBC has hit back at the claims and said that the mocked-up bank statements played no part in Diana’s decision to appear on Panorama, as she herself said in a handwritten statement.

They also said the suggestion that “criminal activity” had taken place was “risible”.

The BBC said: “The suggestion of criminal activity is a serious allegation, but, in these circumstances, a risible one. A handwritten note from Princess Diana attested to the fact the Princess had not seen the ‘mocked-up’ bank statements and that they played no part in her decision to give the interview.

Read more: Meghan Markle fans defend duchess as she is accused of ‘flaunting’ Diana’s jewellery

“The BBC itself no longer possesses a physical copy of this note, and thus could not release it under FOI in 2007 or indeed now. But its existence is documented in the BBC’s records, and it was seen, at the time, by BBC management.”

The statement went on to say that Earl Spencer saw the documents, but the Princess of Wales did not.

It continued: “She had confirmed that they played no part in her decision to give what was, and still is, one of the most iconic interviews of the last half of the twentieth century.”

The BBC spokesperson went on to point out that Martin Bashir is currently “seriously unwell” with Covid-related complications. They added: “We cannot put any of these questions to him.”

ED! contacted Martin Bashir’s reps for comment.

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Nancy Brown
Associate Editor