Controversial reporter Martin Bashir leaves BBC amid Princess Diana investigation

by · The Age

London: The BBC has parted ways with controversial journalist Martin Bashir amid an investigation over claims he duped Princess Diana into recording one of the most-watched television interviews in British history.

Bashir’s 1995 Panorama interview revealed intimate details of Diana’s disastrous marriage to Prince Charles, her affair with army captain James Hewitt and the role of Camilla Parker-Bowles in the saga.

“There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” Diana said from her Kensington Palace home.

Princess Diana on the BBC's Panorama program in November 1995.AP

The BBC was recently hit by a series of allegations that Bashir used wild claims and forged documents to trick Diana and her brother, Charles Spencer, into participating in the tell-all.

In a note to staff on Friday, London time, deputy director of news Jonathan Munro said Bashir had left his position as religion editor for health reasons.

“He let us know of his decision last month, just before being readmitted to hospital for another surgical procedure on his heart,” Munro wrote of the 57-year-old.

“Although he underwent some major surgery towards the end of last year, he is facing some ongoing issues and has decided to focus on his health. We wish him a complete and speedy recovery.”

Martin Bashir, right, filming an interview with Michael Jackson.

The BBC apologised in October after admitting Bashir had used fake bank statements to claim that Spencer’s former head of security was receiving payments from Rupert Murdoch’s News International group and an offshore vehicle named Penfold Consultants. Bashir allegedly showed Spencer the forged documents to win his trust and secure an introduction to Diana.

Spencer also recently gave the media handwritten notes from a meeting with Bashir and Diana on September 19, 1995, several weeks before the interview was filmed, and from two meetings with Bashir at Althorp, Diana’s stately childhood home.

As well as discussing the fake bank statements, Bashir allegedly told Diana that her correspondence had been intercepted, her phone lines at Kensington Palace tapped and a tracking device installed in her car.

He also allegedly said Diana had been followed by security services, and that her bodyguard was plotting against her.

The claims prompted the BBC to hire a former judge, Lord John Dyson, to lead an independent investigation.

A spokesperson for the inquiry on Friday, London time, said: “Lord Dyson has concluded his investigation and the report has been passed to the BBC for publication in due course.”

Bashir left the BBC in the late 1990s and went on to interview singer Michael Jackson and Joanne Lees, the British backpacker who was terrorised in outback Australia in 2001. He returned to the BBC in 2016 as its religion editor.

Panorama, the BBC investigative program that first aired the 1995 Diana interview, is thought to be preparing its own program on how the original interview was secured.

What in the World