Earl Spencer demands Scotland Yard MUST investigate the BBC

Earl Spencer demands Scotland Yard MUST investigate the BBC

May 21, 2021

Princess Diana’s brother Earl Spencer demands Scotland Yard MUST investigate the BBC over her Panorama interview with Martin Bashir – alleging she was the victim of blackmail and fraud

  • Earl Spencer has written to Cressida Dick, alleging his sister Diana was the victim of blackmail and fraud
  • It will dramatically intensify the pressure on the Met for a full probe into how Martin Bashir got his interview
  • Yesterday, the force promised it would ‘assess’ any new evidence in Lord Dyson’s explosive report on the affair
  • Robert Buckland said the findings raised ‘very serious issues’ and suggested ‘fraud’ may have occurred

Princess Diana’s brother last night demanded Scotland Yard investigate the BBC over her Panorama interview.

Earl Spencer has written to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, alleging his sister was the victim of blackmail and fraud, the Mail can reveal.

It will dramatically intensify the pressure on the Met for a full probe into how Martin Bashir induced Diana to agree to the 1995 bombshell broadcast.

Yesterday, the force promised it would ‘assess’ any new evidence in Lord Dyson’s explosive report on the affair. 

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said the former judge’s findings raised ‘very serious issues’ – and suggested ‘fraud’ and ‘forgery’ may have occurred.

The BBC has been plunged into one of the worst crises in its history by the explosive fallout from the scandal, with Princes William and Harry accusing the corporation of ruining their mother’s life with its ‘deceitful’ exclusive. 

Princess Diana’s brother Earl Spencer (pictured) last night demanded Scotland Yard investigate the BBC over her Panorama interview

Earl Spencer has written to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, alleging his sister was the victim of blackmail and fraud, the Mail can reveal

It will dramatically intensify the pressure on the Met for a full probe into how Martin Bashir induced Diana to agree to the 1995 bombshell broadcast (pictured)

 

Questions STILL not answered 

Lord Dyson’s excoriating 127-page inquiry report was damning of the BBC but many questions remain. Here Chief Reporter SAM GREENHILL examines some of the most pressing:

1: Who ordered BBC’s media blackout?

It was revealed that a BBC executive told the corporation’s own flagship news programmes to look the other way about Bashir. The boss was not unmasked by Lord Dyson, but he revealed how the editors of Radio 4’s Today, The World at One and PM programmes were told by ‘a senior BBC news and current affairs executive’ that ‘if anyone asks about Bashir, the official line is, ‘It’s not interesting’.’ Lord Hall, who was head of news and current affairs at the time, said he ‘didn’t know’ who the culprit was. Lord Birt, who was then director-general, also pleaded ignorance.

2: Was there a ‘hostile’ culture to whistleblowers?

The whistleblowers certainly think so as they were hounded out the corporation as ‘troublemakers’. Worse, the BBC then launched a cynical ‘briefing’ campaign. Alison Kelly, a press officer, told the inquiry she recalled being asked to inform the Panorama team ‘that the BBC was briefing the press that it suspected that stories about fake bank statements were being leaked by jealous colleagues’.

3: How did Bashir get bank details for forgeries?

There is a lingering mystery over the fake bank statements Bashir used to gain access to Diana – because somehow he had obtained specific personal account details to put on to them. Lord Dyson ruled out Diana or her brother providing them, suggesting Bashir must have used some other method to get hold of the information.

4: Who burgled faked bank statements from graphic designer?

We still don’t know who burgled the flat of BBC graphics designer Matt Wiessler and stole nothing but two computer disks containing the fake bank statements. The vital evidence vanished in the mysterious raid on the night of the Panorama Christmas party in December 1995. Panorama producer Mark Killick’s home was also burgled.

5: Was Bashir source of ‘sorry about baby’ remark?

Few were so wounded by Bashir’s smears than royal nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke. He allegedly baited Diana by encouraging her to believe false claims of an affair with Prince Charles and ‘an abortion’. At a party on December 14, 1995, Diana devastated innocent Miss Legge-Bourke with the acid remark: ‘So sorry to hear about the baby’. Lord Dyson said the episode was irrelevant to his inquiries.

6: Why was Bashir re-hired by BBC in 2016?

In 2016 the BBC under director-general Lord Hall brought Martin Bashir back into the fold, as religious affairs correspondent – even though Hall knew Bashir had lied during the Diana scandal 20 years earlier. Bashir was subsequently promoted to the prestigious post of BBC religion editor. The chairman of the Commons’ media committee, Julian Knight, said: ‘Why was Martin Bashir rehired, with the BBC knowing what they knew?’

7: Would BBC cooperate with a criminal inquiry?

When the News of the World newspaper was accused of underhand behaviour, it did not take long before Scotland Yard was conducting dawn raids. Today there are several calls for police to probe whether former BBC chiefs should be investigated.

8: Did Bashir use similar deceit in Terry Venables documentary?

Lord Dyson said the terms of his inquiry meant he would not examine claims that Bashir used ‘similar techniques of document fabrication’ on a documentary about former England football manager Terry Venables. Venables went on to sue the BBC unsuccessfully.

9: Why was Panorama special delayed?

The BBC bravely commissioned a Panorama special to investigate itself – then pulled the programme hours before transmission on Monday. It was finally shown on Thursday night. The BBC said it was a ‘duty of care issue’ with Bashir on sick leave following heart surgery but others questioned what difference three days made.

10: Why did Lord Hall not ask Earl Spencer for evidence?

Lord Hall cleared Bashir as ‘honest and honourable’ in his 1996 inquiry without even checking if Earl Spencer had any evidence – which the judge called ‘a most serious flaw in the investigation’.

…and the potential offences 

As detectives pore over the Lord Dyson report to check for any evidence of criminality, they could consider these potential offences:

FRAUD: Under the Theft Act 1968, which was in force in 1995, it was an offence to obtain money or ‘pecuniary advantage’ by deception. It is still an offence under the Fraud Act 2006.

Fraud is defined as a false representation by means of a statement or conduct made knowingly or recklessly to gain a material advantage.

FORGERY: Under the Forgery Act 1981, it is an offence to procure falsified financial documents with the intention to deceive.

Blackmail: Under the Theft Act 1968, a person is guilty of blackmail if – with a view to a gain to himself or with the intent to cause loss to another – he makes an ‘unwarranted demand with menaces’.

Earl Spencer has suggested Diana may have been a victim of blackmail.

CONSPIRACY TO PERVERT THE COURSE OF JUSTICE: If Bashir’s behaviour is considered to amount to fraud or forgery, any BBC executives knowing he had used forged documents and made false allegations face a possible charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. There is also a separate offence of aiding and abetting a crime.

 

Yesterday, Boris Johnson weighed into the row, warning the BBC: ‘Nothing like this must ever happen again.’

And as ministers threatened a major shake-up of the national broadcaster, William privately vowed to continue his battle to uncover ‘the truth’ about how his mother came to be callously duped. 

On a dramatic day:

  • Under-fire former director-general Lord Hall’s post as chairman of the National Gallery was branded ‘untenable’;
  • Tim Suter, another ex-BBC chief, fell on his sword by leaving a senior role at broadcast regulator Ofcom;
  • Ofcom said Lord Dyson’s finding were of ‘great concern’ and it would be ‘discussing with the BBC what further actions may be needed’;
  • It emerged the BBC could be compelled to set up a separate, independent editorial board to oversee its journalism;
  • Decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee could be back on the agenda;
  • It was claimed a BBC executive had once boasted that faking documents was ‘general practice’;
  • Bosses were accused of orchestrating a campaign to smear staff speaking out as ‘jealous’ rivals;
  • A parliamentary committee also demanded urgent answers as to why the corporation had rehired Bashir despite knowing he had lied to secure the Diana interview;
  • Victims of Bashir branded grovelling apologies from the BBC ‘too little, too late’ and vowed to seek compensation;
  • Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith called for a review by Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill QC;
  • It emerged that BBC director-general Tim Davie had written to staff at the corporation and said lessons must be learnt following Lord Dyson’s report. 

It is understood Earl Spencer initially wrote to Dame Cressida in January, and has been in regular touch with the head of the specialist crime squad, Commander Alex Murray. 

According to a friend, Earl Spencer claimed several crimes had been committed. He believed his vulnerable sister was spun a web of lies by Bashir who had established ‘coercive control’ over her.

By filling her mind with terrifying conspiracy theories and tricking her into the interview, he claims the rogue BBC reporter and his superiors had committed blackmail, fraud and obtaining property by deception – because the corporation cashed in when rights to the sensational interview were sold around the world.

Bashir commissioned forged bank statements in flagrant breach of BBC rules to convince Earl Spencer to introduce him to Diana, Lord Dyson concluded in his excoriating inquiry.

BBC bosses are said to have orchestrated a campaign to smear staff speaking out against Bashir as jealous rivals. 

Alison Jackson, a publicity officer for Panorama, said she was told to tell the Panorama team that stories about Bashir’s use of fake bank statements were being leaked by ‘jealous colleagues’.

Asked about the Dyson report, the Prime Minister said: ‘I’m obviously concerned by the findings. I can only imagine the feelings of the Royal Family and I hope very much that the BBC will be taking every possible step to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.’

Home Secretary Priti Patel said there were ‘very strong searching questions’ for the BBC. And there was renewed fury yesterday among some of the victims of the smears and lies peddled by Bashir.

BBC graphics artist Matt Wiessler – sacked as a troublemaker but vindicated after 25 years by Lord Dyson – said a generic letter of apology was ‘too little, too late’. 

He demanded a personal apology from Lord Hall, adding: ‘Why is Tony Hall not apologising to me? I’m just gobsmacked. What I want is real people to admit to having done something wrong.’

Former BBC chairman Lord Grade said: ‘It has taken 26 years to get to the truth here. It’s the cover-up – as the BBC would be screaming if it was an outside organisation who’d covered up something like this.’

In the Commons, media select committee chairman Julian Knight said there ‘serious questions still left to answer’ and revealed he was demanding Mr Davie answer them. 

When asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether the police should be involved, Justice Secretary Mr Buckland said: ‘That, of course, is a matter for the police and the independent prosecutorial authorities, and I’m not going to say anything to prejudge or to influence any such line of inquiry. 

‘But I think anybody reading the headlines and the summary of Lord Dyson’s findings will be struck by his use of those words, fraud and deception and the like, and clearly those sort of issues, I’m afraid, could and do arise.’

In an email to staff, Mr Davie said: ‘This has been a difficult week. Alongside the very significant impact on those directly affected by Lord Dyson’s report, I know that people across the organisation feel deeply let down by the findings that we published yesterday.

‘This is particularly upsetting as I know how hard you all work to ensure we deliver journalism and programming that is fair, honest and of the very highest quality. That is what makes Lord Dyson’s findings so shocking for us. 

‘We have much to reflect on. I know that we now have significantly stronger processes and governance in place to ensure that an event like this doesn’t happen again. However we must also learn lessons and keep improving.’ 

Veteran BBC reporter John Ware, who investigated the scandal for a Panorama special, accused corporation top brass who investigated Bashir in 1996 of a ‘staggering lack of curiosity’.

And veteran BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell – who Lord Dyson said had been lined up to interview Diana – said: ‘I was then instructed on September 2, 1995, by the then-editor of Panorama, Stephen Hewlett, to back off so that a man called Martin Bashir could be given a clear run.

‘I have always wondered in the years since then how it was that Martin Bashir succeeded in getting alongside the princess.

‘Well, now we know.’

And as ministers threatened a major shake-up of the national broadcaster, William (pictured during a filmed response to the report yesterday) privately vowed to continue his battle to uncover ‘the truth’ about how his mother came to be callously duped 

The BBC has been plunged into one of the worst crises in its history by the explosive fallout from the scandal, with Princes William and Harry accusing the corporation of ruining their mother’s life with its ‘deceitful’ exclusive. Pictured: Diana with her sons 


Bashir commissioned forged bank statements (pictured) in flagrant breach of BBC rules to convince Earl Spencer to introduce him to Diana, Lord Dyson concluded in his excoriating inquiry

BBC executives who led the flawed inquiry into the Bashir scandal concluded that faking documents was ‘general practice’, it was claimed yesterday.

Panorama reporter John Ware said he had found notes about an internal BBC meeting into the crisis, held between then director-general John Birt, head of news Tony Hall and senior executive Anne Sloman.

In the notes – taken during an interview carried out some time after the 1996 meeting – Miss Sloman was alleged to have said: ‘We concluded that faking documents had been going on as a general practice.’

Speaking to Richard Lindley for his 2002 book Panorama: Fifty Years Of Pride And Paranoia, she is said to have added that their business created ‘monsters’.

However, the internal probe concluded that Bashir was an ‘honest’ and ‘honourable man’ who had made a lapse when he lied about the faked bank statements.

Mr Ware revealed the notes in a damning 6,000-word essay published on the BBC website yesterday.

The veteran investigative journalist was commissioned to investigate the Bashir scandal for Panorama – the same programme that broadcast the original interview with Diana in November 1995.

Panorama reporter John Ware (pictured) said he had found notes about an internal BBC meeting into the crisis, held between then director-general John Birt, head of news Tony Hall and senior executive Anne Sloman

Mr Ware described the Bashir scandal as ‘a timebomb about public trust that the BBC tried to defuse 25 years ago’ but left ‘ticking’. He went on to say that ‘that bomb has now detonated’.

Bashir’s interview with the princess was viewed as a world-beating scoop for Panorama and the BBC.

But misgivings about Bashir’s conduct in getting it were raised almost immediately, when graphics artist Matt Wiessler told managers he had been asked to draw up faked bank statements.

Mr Wiessler said Bashir had dictated details from his notebook, saying the statements should show payments for £4,000 from News International and £6,500 from a Jersey-based firm ‘Penfolds Consultants’.

The payments were supposedly made to Alan Waller, a former head of security for Diana’s brother Earl Spencer, according to the faked statements.

Bashir then showed the statements to Earl Spencer to win his trust and gain an introduction to Diana, the Lord Dyson investigation found earlier this week.

Mr Wiessler approached current affairs bosses Tim Gardam and Tim Suter with his concerns in December 1995 – actions which Mr Ware said should have been ‘the first alarm bell’ for BBC management. Another Panorama producer, Mark Killick, said he recognised the name ‘Penfolds Consultants’ from the faked statements because the name had featured in two previous Panorama programmes involving Bashir.

Mr Ware described the Martin Bashir (pictured) scandal as ‘a timebomb about public trust that the BBC tried to defuse 25 years ago’ but left ‘ticking’. He went on to say that ‘that bomb has now detonated’

Mr Wiessler’s concerns about the faked bank statements were initially dismissed. However, the BBC launched an internal probe after Bashir admitted he had shown the statements to Earl Spencer.

The investigation, led by Lord Hall who went on to become director-general, did not speak to Earl Spencer and was described as ‘woefully ineffective’ by Lord Dyson.

According to Mr Ware, the internal probe culminated in a 90-minute meeting between the three executives although Lord Birt is understood to have no recollection of it.

However, he is said not to have been told that Bashir had repeatedly lied.

In the notes from her interview with Mr Lindley, Miss Sloman praised Lord Birt saying: ‘Never did [he] express interest in covering his own back… Birt wanted to get to the bottom of the matter.’

Lord Hall has admitted his 1996 investigation ‘fell well short of what was required’ and that he was wrong to have given Bashir the ‘benefit of the doubt’.

A BBC spokesman declined to comment on Miss Sloman’s alleged comments.  

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