Ex-BBC director Lord Hall says he ‘investigated at the time’ but looks forward to helping independent inquiry into Martin Bashir’s 1995 Princess Diana interview
- Lord Tony Hall has insisted he ‘investigated’ Martin Bashir’s 1995 Diana interview
- However, he says that he now looks forward to helping an independent inquiry
- The Lord Dyson-led inquiry will look into circumstances that led to the sit down
- Martin Bashir has been accused of faking documents to get Diana interview
Former BBC director Lord Tony Hall says he ‘looks forward’ to helping an independent inquiry into Martin Bashir’s Panorama interview with Princess Diana – but insists he ‘investigated it at the time’.
Lord Hall was Head of News at the BBC when the controversial interview took place, and the corporation previously absolved itself of any wrongdoing after an internal investigation in 1996.
Now, a new independent review of the circumstances around the interview is taking place with former top judge Lord Dyson appointed ‘to get to the truth’ about whether Bashir conned Princess Diana into the sit down – and whether his bosses covered any dirty tricks up.
Today, Lord Hall was cornered by a journalist and insisted that he had ‘investigated’ the interview at the time.
However, he refused to comment on whether his initial inquiry was a failure.
Diana, Princess of Wales, during her Panorama interview with Bashir for the BBC, November 20 1995
He told ITV News: ‘I’m going to take part in the Inquiry, I think Lord Dyson is the right way, he’s doing all the right things, and I will take part in that inquiry and I shall say what I want to say to Lord Dyson.
‘I investigated at the time, I will take part in the Lord Dyson inquiry and I look forward to telling him what I think.’
Lord Dyson previously said he will start his inquiry ‘straight away’ by interviewing corporation staff and having access to available records.
He also promised Mr Bashir a ‘thorough and fair’ investigation following sensational claims the journalist secured the Princess of Wales’s trust by faking two bank statements.
Lord Hall’s comments today come amid a growing legal row with Diana’s brother over the interview.
Earl Spencer could sue the BBC over claims he provided one of the bank statements used by Bashir to secure his infamous interview.
Bashir’s scoop came after he commissioned a graphic designer to produce fake documents.
Former BBC director-general Hall suggested that the princess’s brother was the source of the original material on which these were based.
Earl Spencer is said to be ‘furious’ at the attempt to blame him, however, and he is also believed to be consulting lawyers.
A new Channel 4 documentary about the Panorama interview reveals that Lord Hall wrote a memo to his board of governors suggesting Diana’s brother provided the statements Bashir used to create forgeries.
Lord Hall was Head of News at the BBC when the controversial Martin Bashir-Princess Diana interview took place
Retired judge Lord Dyson (left) will run the independent inquiry into whether Martin Bashir used dirty tricks to con Princess Diana into the 1995 Panorama interview. Mr Bashir won a Bafta for the show (right)
Last night a source close to the earl revealed: ‘It would not be an understatement to say he is furious and is consulting his lawyers.’
A friend said: ‘Why would he even have bank statements belonging to someone else?
‘There’s simply no logic to it! They have entered fantasy land… they had a chance to ask him about this but the BBC never did.’
Bashir is believed to have initially used the documents to gain the trust of the earl himself – who then introduced the reporter to Diana.
Bashir had commissioned a graphic artist to mock up the statements, which suggested the earl’s head of security, Alan Waller, was taking payments from a newspaper group and an offshore firm reportedly linked to MI5.
An internal inquiry into the scandal in 1996 saw the BBC clear itself of any wrongdoing. The result came after Lord Hall told the board of governors that Bashir went to see Diana’s brother, and ‘Earl Spencer…. showed him some documents including this man’s bank statement’.
Earl Spencer dismissed this version of events, telling the Mail: ‘This suggests I unlawfully gave someone’s bank details to him. This is a lie.’
Lord Hall’s memo and other related documents were only released under Freedom of Information laws thanks to the persistence of Channel 4 documentary maker Andy Webb. He first asked for the files 13 years ago, but was told they did not exist.
Mr Waller has confirmed the supposedly incriminating payments on the forged bank statements never happened.
He says his life has been ruined by Bashir – now the BBC’s religion editor – and is considering a complaint to the police over the scandal.
Bashir has so far not commented on the growing scandal and is signed off from work with illness.
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