Journalist Martin Bashir used “deceitful” methods to land his bombshell Panorama interview with Princess Diana, an official inquiry found.
Lord Dyson’s independent report concluded that Mr Bashir acted inappropriately and was in “serious breach” of BBC guidelines when he set up the controversial 1995 interview.
The probe also found the broadcaster “fell short of high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark” when it came to the interview.
Diana’s exclusive talk with Mr Bashir, in which she famously said “there were three of us in this marriage”, was watched by more than 20 million people.
The BBC made an “unconditional apology” when the Dyson report was published on Thursday (20 May).
What did Martin Bashir do?
Diana’s interview was a huge exclusive for the BBC, as a member of the Royal Family had never disclosed so many details about other royals.
Mr Bashir, who was a relatively junior reporter for the broadcaster at the time, managed to secure the chat with the Princess of Wales.
But the Dyson report found that the journalist had commissioned fake bank statements to help to gain the trust of Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, in a breach of BBC rules.
The fake documents appeared to show payments by a newspaper group to one of the earl’s former employees, Alan Waller, and two former members of the royal household.
The probe said this “deceitful” tactic was used to gain Earl Spencer’s trust, so he would introduce Mr Bashir to Diana and subsequently land the scoop.
The reporter has admitted having the forged documents designed by a graphic artist who worked for the BBC, saying it was “an action I deeply regret”.
Later, he repeatedly told BBC bosses that he had not shown the fake statements to Earl Spencer and he was “unable or unwilling” to offer a credible explanation of why he had commissioned the documents, the inquiry found.
According to the report, Mr Bashir "lied and maintained the lie until he realised that it was no longer sustainable. This was most reprehensible behaviour which casts considerable doubt on his credibility generally".
But the inquiry also found that Diana “would probably have agreed to be interviewed by any experienced and reputable reporter in whom she had confidence even without the intervention of Mr Bashir”.
A letter, signed by Diana and included as evidence in the Dyson report read: “Martin Bashir did not show me any documents, nor give me any information that I was not previously aware of.
“I consented to the interview on Panorama without any undue pressure and have no regrets concerning the matter.”
What did Diana say during the interview?
Speaking candidly during the interview, Diana revealed much about her marriage to Prince Charles and her struggles with life in the Royal Family.
She admitted having an affair and being in love with James Hewitt, while saying Charles’s affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles had made her feel worthless.
In relation to the affair with his now-wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, Diana uttered the famous line: “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”
She said she had been with “a husband who loved someone else” and openly spoke about the breakdown of their marriage.
Diana suggested to Mr Bashir that Prince Charles might not make a suitable king.
The princess also said she had suffered with post-natal depression after she gave birth to Prince William.
“Well, it gave everybody a wonderful new label – Diana’s unstable and Diana’s mentally unbalanced. And unfortunately that seems to have stuck on and off over the years,” she said when asked about the effect depression had on her marriage.
Diana admitted she had suffered with “rampant bulimia”, which she called a “symptom of what was going on in my marriage”, and self-harmed.
She also spoke of the “daunting” media attention she received, including being followed by photographers and details being disclosed about her family.
Will Mr Bashir be prosecuted?
Police are set to examine the bombshell report into the 1995 interview.
Scotland Yard has responded to the findings of the Dyson inquiry, saying it will “assess the contents” of the report into Mr Bashir’s chat with Diana “to ensure there is no significant new evidence”.
In a statement, the Met Police said: "In March 2021, the MPS determined it was not appropriate to begin a criminal investigation into allegations of unlawful activity in connection with a documentary broadcast in 1995 but should any significant new evidence emerge it would be assessed.
"Following the publication of Lord Dyson's report we will assess its contents to ensure there is no significant new evidence."