Prince William has said he wants to get to “the truth” behind Martin Bashir’s sensational Panorama interview with his late mother, as the BBC announced it has appointed a top judge to handle an independent investigation.
The Duke of Cambridge, who is understood to have “tentatively welcomed” the new probe, said: “The independent investigation is a step in the right direction.
“It should help establish the truth behind the actions that led to the Panorama interview and subsequent decisions taken by those in the BBC at the time.”
Lord Dyson, the former President of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, will immediately begin his investigation into the circumstances around the Panorama interview that sent shockwaves around the world.
The respected judge will interview several witnesses connected to the programme and examine an original BBC investigation into Bashir’s methods which took place in 1996.
It comes after allegations by Diana’s brother Earl Spencer that he was shown “false bank statements” by Bashir, purporting to show senior courtiers accepting payments from news organisations.
Earl Spencer accused the BBC of “yellow journalism” and claimed Bashir told Diana she was being bugged by MI5 as well as making up a catalogue of lies about the royal family so he could gain access to her.
The result was the explosive interview 25 years ago in which Diana famously said: “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”of re
William’s brother Prince Harry is said to be “following developments closely”, while the rest of the senior royals including the Queen and Prince Charles are “watching with interest” developments in recent weeks.
The investigation will consider five points, chiefly if the steps taken by the BBC and Bashir were appropriate and to what extent those actions influenced Diana’s decision to give an interview.
It will also investigate what knowledge the BBC had in 1995 and 1996 of “mocked up bank statements purporting to show payments to a former employee of Earl Spencer (and) the purported payments to members of the Royal Households,” the corporation said.
The graphic designer who mocked up the documents allegedly used to secure the interview has said he was made “the fall guy” by the BBC, and called on the broadcaster to formally apologise.
The corporation’s new director-general, Tim Davie, who has already offered his apology to the Earl, said on Wednesday: “The BBC is determined to get to the truth about these events and that is why we have commissioned an independent investigation.
“Lord Dyson is an eminent and highly respected figure who will lead a thorough process.”
Bashir, who is now religion editor at the BBC, is currently signed off from work recovering from a quadruple heart bypass and the after effects of coronavirus.
The Mirror understands the BBC was moved to announce its probe on Wednesday after being requested by a cross party of MPs on the digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) select committee to be kept updated with the progress of the investigation.
Members of the parliamentary committee are yet to decide whether to launch their own investigation into whether Bashir tricked the princess into giving the interview and any alleged cover-up by the corporation.
The probe by Lord Dyson will start straight away and the BBC is handing over all of its relevant records.
The evidence will include a letter the national broadcaster claims Diana personally wrote saying she did not see the false bank statements and that they played no part in her decision to give the interview.
The BBC announced last week the letter had been located after previously saying it could not be found.
As the scandal deepens, Bashir has been met with further allegations this week that he urged grieving relatives of serial killer Harold Shipman to give him an interview when he was working for ITV, rather than speak to his old colleagues at Panorama.
He is alleged to have told them untruthfully that the flagship BBC show intended to “sabotage the prosecution” case.
On July 10, 2000, Peter Horrocks, the BBC’s head of current affairs, wrote a searing letter to ITV formally complaining about Bashir’s dodgy tactics, saying “What Martin does crosses the line of acceptability.”
Bashir is yet to give an account of his actions in the Diana case after weeks of allegations regarding his journalist methods.
Lord Dyson said: “This is an important investigation which I will start straight away. I will ensure it is both thorough and fair.”
The senior judge, who was as Master of the Rolls – the President of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales and Head of Civil Justice – until he retired in October 2016,
has also appointed Fieldfisher LLP solicitors.
The team has acted as solicitors to the Inquest in to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed as well as the 7/7 London bombings inquests.
They currently act as solicitors to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, and the Manchester Arena bombing inquiry.