The extraordinary saga of alleged corrupt practices by journalist Martin Bashir in securing his devastating 1995 interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, took another turn Monday as it was revealed that a missing letter written by Diana apparently exonerating Bashir of using fraudulent documents to secure the interview has been found, and is expected to become an important piece of evidence during a forthcoming inquiry into the affair.
Diana’s handwritten letter is believed to praise Bashir, the interviewer who has been accused of obtaining Diana’s cooperation by deception, and Diana apparently writes in it that she was never shown any documents to persuade her to take part in the interview.
According to a report in British newspaper The Times on Monday, Diana apparently wrote in it: “This is to confirm that I gave you the interview freely and was not influenced by any documents.”
While the ghostly presence of Diana may seek to put Bashir in the clear, however, Diana’s very-much-alive brother, Charles Spencer, has been far less helpful to his cause.
Spencer has long maintained that he was shown fake bank statements by Bashir that suggested two of Diana’s staff members were selling information on her to the security services. It was on the basis of these fake documents, Spencer says, that he agreed to facilitate the first meeting between Diana and Bashir.
The BBC admitted for the first time in October that Bashir had indeed shown Spencer bank statements that had been created by a graphic designer.
The designer who created the statements spoke out in a TV documentary earlier this year saying he was also tricked by Bashir. He believed the statements were to be used as props, for example in background footage.
The designer, Matt Wiessler, was blacklisted by the BBC soon after the interview aired and the existence of the fake documents was first revealed. His apartment was burgled and discs containing the original mockups of the statements were stolen. He soon after left the media industry, while Bashir went on to have a stellar career.
However, questions about how Bashir obtained the interview resurfaced this year as a number of media organizations and TV documentaries started investigating the circumstances surrounding the landing of the interview on its 25th anniversary.
Prince William has publicly praised the decision by the BBC to launch a new inquiry into the affair, and Prince Harry is also thought to be supportive.
It is not known whether Bashir will cooperate with the inquiry.
Bashir, now the BBC’s religion editor, is on long-term sick leave after suffering from COVID-19 and undergoing a quadruple heart bypass. The BBC says this has left him unable to respond to the latest allegations leveled by Diana’s brother.
But if the letter from Diana has surfaced again, and if it is as supportive of Bashir as reports suggest, it will be harder for critics to maintain the narrative that Diana was an easily gulled naif, duped into doing the interview in which she spoke about the extent of Prince Charles’ affair with Camilla Parker Bowles and admitted to her own infidelities.
The letter was taken from BBC HQ by “a member of staff who kept it hidden as a memento for 25 years,” the Telegraph claimed this weekend.
The letter was written on Kensington Palace stationery and arrived by courier in an official envelope. It went missing after a member of the documentary team, said not to be Bashir, took it home as a keepsake. It was apparently returned last month as the story blew up again. The television interview became one of the scoops of the century after Diana said there were “three people” in her marriage.
The interview saw the palace order Diana and Charles to divorce in 1996. In 1997, Diana died in a car accident.
The BBC said that the new inquiry, expected to last some six months, would investigate “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.”