Lord Hall is ‘worried’ he could lose role as chairman of National Gallery if judge delivers damning verdict that he ‘led cover up’ into how Martin Bashir ‘conned’ Princess Diana into Panorama interview
- Lord Hall identified in documents as ‘key figure’ who protected BBC journalist
- Report published at 2pm today is expected to criticise the former BBC chief
- At National Gallery for a year and recently revealed its new digital strategy
Lord Hall of Birkenhead, 70, is chairman of the National Gallery (where he is pictured last year)
Former BBC chief Lord Hall is worried he could lose his job as chairman of the National Gallery when a damning report into his role directing the ‘cover-up’ around Martin Bashir’s world exclusive interview with Princess Diana is published today, it has been claimed.
Lord Hall of Birkenhead, 70, was identified in 60 pages of previously secret documents as being a ‘key figure’ who helped protect the BBC journalist following his explosive 1995 interview with the royal.
Lord Dyson, the former master of the rolls and head of civil justice, was appointed to look into the circumstances surrounding the explosive 1995 sit-down, which famously featured Diana saying: ‘Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.’
A report on the six-month inquiry will be published at 2pm today and is expected to reveal that Mr Bashir mocked up bank statements that were shown to Princess Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, in order to win the trust of the royal and Lord Hall is alleged to have run an internal inquiry later branded a ‘whitewash’ by insiders.
The findings could now pave the way for huge damages claims from BBC and royal staff who lost their positions as a result of the explosive interview, royal staff claim, with one source calling the case the corporation’s ‘phone hacking moment’.
Lord Hall has only been with the National Gallery for a year, and last month revealed major plans to turn the attraction into a ‘global digital institution’ that would appeal to the younger generation. The i reported that he is now concerned about his future.
Lord Dyson was commissioned six months ago to examine whether Princess Diana would have given the historic 1995 interview had it not been for Mr Bashir’s underhand tactics
1) Bashir’s opening gambit that three members of MI6 had told him Prince Charles’s private secretary Richard Aylard was ‘orchestrating’ things surrounding Diana. This involved Ken Wharfe, Diana’s former bodyguard, described as ‘scum’.
2) Aylard, it was claimed, had been paid by the broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby. A decision to reinvent the prince had been taken by aides two years earlier. A year later this allegedly included attacking both Diana and the Spencer family.
3) MI6 agents had recordings of Prince Charles and Aylard talking in which the phrase ‘the end game’ was uttered, thought to refer to a divorce between the prince and princess. Diana also said she would not agree to a divorce.
4) Spencers’ reputation to be destroyed. In another remark recorded by Lord Spencer, Bashir claimed Prince Charles wanted Spencer’s then wife, Victoria, dead. Diana meanwhile would be forced to move to America — possibly with her brother.
5) This relates to the stories during 1995 of the close friendship between Diana and the married England rugby captain Will Carling. Spencer notes Bashir’s assertion that the newspaper stories had been ‘fed’ by Carling’s wife Julia.
Lord Dyson’s report is expected to raise questions about Lord Hall’s conduct during the fallout from Martin Bashir’s bombshell 1995 interview.
It came after concerns were raised by three Panorama journalists about Mr Bashir at the time, with friends claiming that the rogue reporter ‘destroyed her psychologically and made her paranoid’.
Simone Simmons , 61, who also gave evidence during the inquiry and was at one meeting, said: ‘The interview led to her divorce and losing her HRH titles. He destroyed her psychologically and made her paranoid — saying the royals wanted to bump her off and distrust her loyal staff and friends’.
Lord Dyson is understood to have found that Mr Bashir, 58, ’employed deceitful methods’ and ‘breached’ guidelines to secure his famous interview with the royal.
Yet a year after the interview, an internal inquiry led by Lord Hall found that Mr Bashir was an ‘honest man’ and there was ‘no question of Mr Bashir trying to mislead or do anything improper’.
Documents seen by Lord Dyson of minutes taken from meetings of the BBC news and current affairs board after the controversial interview showed three Panorama journalists, who later left the show, raised concerns about Mr Bashir’s conduct.
Lord Hall is also accused of telling graphic designer Matthew Weissler, who helped Mr Bashir create the mocked-up bank statements, that he ‘will not work for the BBC again’.
A BBC source told The Times: ‘What happened at Panorama with Bashir set the culture of the BBC where staff were afraid to raise concerns about wrongdoing.
‘It also set the format for how far you can push it and then cover up to get a scoop.
‘It is not acceptable for a licence fee- funded organisation.
‘The whistleblowers were axed and those who covered up were promoted.’
Handwritten notes taken by the Princess of Wales’ brother Earl Spencer during a 90-minute secret meeting with him, Bashir and his sister at a flat in Knightsbridge in 1995 blew open the case.
The eight pages from a lined notepad revealed that the BBC reporter made a series of false claims that helped him land the interview of the century where the Princess of Wales opened up on her broken marriage with Charles.
Last November the BBC commissioned former Supreme Court judge Lord Dyson (pictured) to probe allegations that the corporation covered up the trail of deceit by its reporter
Timeline of the Diana-Panorama scandal
1986: Martin Bashir joins BBC as news correspondent and works on programmes including Songs of Praise, Public Eye and Panorama.
November 1995: The famous interview with Princess Diana turns Mr Bashir into TV’s hottest property.
1996: The Mail on Sunday reveals claims that Mr Bashir used faked bank documents to persuade Diana to talk. The BBC holds internal inquiry dismissed as a ‘whitewash’.
1999: Moves to ITV’s Tonight with Trevor McDonald. His scoops include interview with Stephen Lawrence suspects and documentary on Michael Jackson.
May 2004: Quits to host ABC’s Nightline in US. Suspended in 2008 after making ‘Asian babes’ remark at Asian American Journalists convention.
2010: Joins NBC News as an MSNBC anchor. He resigns in 2013 after controversial remarks about vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
2016: BBC re-hires Mr Bashir as religious affairs correspondent. He is later promoted to religion editor.
October 2020: Channel 4 documentary alleges there was ‘elaborate plot’ by Mr Bashir to trick Diana into talking.
November 7: The Daily Mail reveals a shocking dossier held by Diana’s brother Earl Spencer revealing alleged royal smears, lies and tricks that Mr Bashir used to land his interview.
November 18: BBC orders six-month inquiry by former judge Lord Dyson.
May 14, 2021: The BBC announces Mr Bashir has quit on health grounds.
Earl Spencer’s records show that Bashir allegedly claimed that Diana’s private letters were being opened, her car tracked and phoned tapped with her bodyguard plotting against her, and close friends were betraying her.
The notes, handed to Lord Dyson, also contained allegations MI6 had recorded Prince Charles and his private secretary planning the ‘end game’ – an extraordinary and false hint the heir to the throne was plotting to ‘destroy’ the Spencers and force them to flee to the US.
Earl Spencer says that there were 32 jaw-dropping smears peddled by Martin Bashir , but the journalist, who quit the BBC last week, is understood to have denied this to inquiry chief Lord Dyson, and may have argued that some of these claims came from Diana’s mouth.
The six-month inquiry, which was commissioned by the BBC, is expected to reveal that Mr Bashir mocked up bank statements that were shown to Princess Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, in order to win the trust of the royal.
The independent report is also expected to condemn senior BBC executives who worked at the corporation at the time over allegations of a cover-up, The Telegraph reports.
Lord Dyson was commissioned last year to examine whether Princess Diana would have given the historic 1995 interview, in which she famously declared ‘there were three of us in this marriage’, had it not been for Mr Bashir’s underhand tactics.
A source told The Telegraph: ‘It will be a true eye opener. This could be the BBC’s phone hacking moment.’
The report is expected to find that Martin Bashir (left) deployed ‘deceitful methods’ to secure his BBC interview. Pictured right: Charles Spencer’s detailed notes
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