Martin Bashir shows fake bank statements to Earl Spencer, the brother of Diana, Princess of Wales, purporting to show payments to the earl’s former head of security from the intelligence services and News International. Mr Bashir had asked Matt Wiessler, a freelance designer, to make them. The Dyson Report exonerates Mr Wiessler as being “entirely reputable”.
Another meeting between Earl Spencer and Martin Bashir. Earl Spencer says Mr Bashir showed him a second set of bank statements purporting to show payments from the intelligence services into the accounts of the private secretaries of Princess Diana and Prince Charles. Lord Dyson says it is likely that Martin Bashir created these statements himself.
Earl Spencer introduces Martin Bashir to Princess Diana. It is the first in a series of meetings between the reporter and the princess before the interview is conducted on 5 November 1995
Martin Bashir’s Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales is broadcast. In the UK, 23 million people watch it.
After watching the interview, Matt Wiessler tells the series producer of Panorama he is concerned the fake bank statements may have played a role in obtaining the interview by deception. Managers talk to Martin Bashir and ask him to provide evidence that the fake statements were not shown to Princess Diana.
Princess Diana writes a note saying: “I was not shown any documents nor given any information by Martin Bashir that I was not already aware of”.
Martin Bashir admits to BBC bosses that he had lied to them when he claimed previously that he had not shown the fake bank statements to anybody.
Tim Suter, head of BBC weekly current affairs programmes, sends a note to Martin Bashir – agreed by Tony Hall, head of news and current affairs. It says Mr Bashir’s dealings with Princess Diana in securing the interview were “absolutely straight and fair” but that his use of some material in the early preparation of the programme was in breach of BBC guidelines and justified a reprimand.
The Mail on Sunday publishes an article questioning whether Martin Bashir had intended to show the fake statements to Earl Spencer. In response to the Mail’s publication of the fake documents, the BBC issues a statement saying the documents were “never connected in any way to the Panorama on Princess Diana”. But growing suggestions in the press that the interview had been obtained by deception lead Tony Hall to open a full inquiry.
Tony Hall meets Martin Bashir who cannot explain why he commissioned the fake statements or why he showed them to Earl Spencer. The earl is not contacted as part of the inquiry.
Tony Hall reports to BBC governors that Martin Bashir commissioned fake statements because “he wasn’t thinking” adding “I believe he is, even with this lapse, an honest and honourable man. He is contrite.”
Martin Bashir stayed at the BBC until 1998 when he left to join ITV.
The BBC turns down a Freedom of Information request from journalists (making a programme for Channel 4) for documents about the BBC investigation into Mr Bashir’s interview, on the grounds that it no longer holds the material. In 2020, a repeat request from programme makers at Channel 4, is given several pages of details. The BBC says: “We apologise… that the answer you received was inaccurate.”
Martin Bashir returns to the BBC as its religion editor. Tony Hall is now the director general.
Around the 25th anniversary of the Panorama interview programme, the BBC commissions an independent investigation into the affair – under former Supreme Court Justice Lord Dyson – after receiving a letter from Earl Spencer saying the forged bank statements had been used to secure the interview with his sister.
Martin Bashir steps down from his role as the BBC’s religion editor due to ill health.
Dyson report is published, describing Martin Bashir as “unreliable”, “devious” and “dishonest”. It also described Tony Hall’s investigation as “flawed and woefully ineffective”.