The BBC has today published the Rt Hon Lord Dyson’s independent investigation into the circumstances around the 1995 Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales

The BBC Board appointed Lord Dyson to lead the investigation on 18 November 2020. Lord Dyson examined documents and records from the time and interviewed a wide range of people involved in the making of the programme.


In April 1996 the Mail on Sunday broke the scoop that Bashir had falsified bank statements

Today Lord Dyson's report into the Martin Bashir interview of Princess Diana (Diana, Princess of Wales) was published. The interview was aired in 1995, and in 1996 the British newspaper Mail on Sunday reported claims that Bashir had behaved unethically, using faked documents to manipulate the Princess. In 2020 the BBC launched an independent inquiry into these allegations and an alleged cover-up.

I'm struggling to understand what, in 2020, 25 years after the interview and 24 years after the Mail on Sunday article, prompted the inquiry. I'm not questioning the validity of the inquiry or the outcomes, just the timing.

(It's worth noting that this is "political" as the BBC is the British public service broadcaster, established under a Royal Charter, and Diana Princess of Wales was formerly married to the Heir Apparent of the British Monarch (who was candidly discussed in the interview under investigation). Lord Dyson was also previously appointed Master of the Rolls which is one of the highest appointments in the British Supreme Court.)

2 Answers 2


The independent inquiry was commissioned by the BBC due to a request by Diana's brother, Earl Spencer, after he made new allegations regarding how the interview was secured in the wake of renewed public interest in the interview in the weeks preceding its 25th anniversary.

The 25th anniversary of the interview was November 20th 2020, and this interest was sparked in part by a Channel 4 documentary; Diana: The Truth Behind the Interview. Seemingly as a result of this interest, Spencer was in conversation with the BBC's Director-General Tim Davie, eventually leading to the BBC admitting in late October to the forgery of documents, and apologising to Spencer. The Sunday Times reports:

Spencer is understood to have told Davie that he has records of all his meetings and conversations with Bashir. These are alleged to show that Bashir told Diana fantastical stories to win her trust and that he used the fake bank statements to garner his first meeting with her.

Last month, the BBC admitted for the first time that Bashir had shown Spencer bank statements, created by one of the corporation’s graphic designers.

At this point, Davie resisted Spencer's call for another inquiry, claiming that no substantial new evidence had been revealed since the original investigation in 1996 cleared the BBC and Bashir of wrongdoing.

In response to this refusal, Spencer retaliated, and his reply was published by the Daily Mail on November 2nd. In the letter, Spencer is keen to refute Davie's claim that the forged bank statements were the only wrongdoing by the corporation and Bashir:

Earl Spencer says this was only the tip of the iceberg and Bashir had also shown him several other bank statements purporting – falsely – to show that two senior royal courtiers – Patrick Jephson, who worked for the princess as her private secretary, and Commander Richard Aylard, who worked for the Prince of Wales – had also received 'very large payments alleged by Bashir to have come from the security services'.

In this letter, Spencer notes that he is "formally asking the BBC to open an inquiry into this matter", and while the BBC initially repeated their request for substantive new information before opening a new investigation, noting additionally that information gathering was hampered due to Bashir's ill health, Davie released a statement on November 9th in which he committed the BBC to a "robust and independent investigation".

This version of events is supported by the report itself in paragraphs 8 to 10:

  1. The story then rapidly disappeared from view. It did not come to life again until late in 2020. Earl Spencer, says (and I accept) that he had come to believe that Mr Bashir had shown him the fake Waller bank statements "to groom me, so that he could then get to Diana for the interview he was always secretly after." But it was not until late October 2020 that he received what he considered to be proof of this. The proof was in the form of papers released by the BBC pursuant to a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“FOIA”). He says that he was outraged by what he read. That is why, having turned down thousands of requests by the press for an interview, he agreed to be interviewed by Richard Kay of the Daily Mail. He gave Mr Kay a detailed account of how the faked Waller bank statements had played a critical part in securing the interview for Mr Bashir. Many of the points that he made were set out by Richard Kay in his Daily Mail article "BBC lies: the Spencer files" that was published on 7 November 2020.
  2. Despite initial reluctance, following an exchange of correspondence with Earl Spencer, Tim Davie (who is now the Director-General of the BBC) agreed to commission an independent investigation into the circumstances of the interview and the adequacy of the BBC's investigation into the methods used by Mr Bashir to secure it.
  3. I was appointed by the BBC on 19 November 2020.

The timing follows the revelations by Matt Wiessler in ITV's The Diana Interview: Revenge of a Princess, which was shown on ITV on Monday 9 and Tuesday 10 November 2020.

While, as you note, the claims that false bank statements had been made to convince Diana to do the interview, the BBC had previously claimed that these were made by one rogue prop designer. But Mr Wiessler (who hadn't previously spoken in public about the matter) said that the intent came from high management in the BBC.

Moreover, Diana's brother, Earl Spencer, also gave information as part of the same programme, which hadn't been aired before. With evidence that the false documents were not only created, but used. Previously the BBC had claimed in 1996 that the Princess had not known of the fake documents and that they played no part in her decision to do the interview.

So in short there was new evidence to prompt the Dyson inquiry.

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