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
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:
- 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.
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.
- I was appointed by
the BBC on 19 November 2020.