Prince William says BBC contributed to Diana's 'fear and paranoia' in final years

20 May 2021, 22:00 | Updated: 21 May 2021, 07:54

Prince William has heavily criticised the BBC over its 1995 Princess Diana interview
Prince William has heavily criticised the BBC over its 1995 Princess Diana interview. Picture: PA

By Will Taylor

Prince William has accused the BBC of failures which "contributed significantly" to Princess Diana's "fear, paranoia and isolation" in her final years.

His extraordinary statement comes after the findings of an inquiry into Martin Bashir's BBC interview with Princess Diana were published.

The inquiry, headed by Lord Dyson, found Bashir used fabricated bank statements to deceive her brother, Earl Spencer, into arranging the Panorama interview in 1995.

The BBC issued a "full and unconditional" apology for "unacceptable failures" in how the piece was set up, with the Duke of Cambridge among those sent letters of apology by director general Tim Davie. Prince Harry has also criticised the corporation.

Watch: 'I've never seen anything like it': Nick Ferrari blasts BBC over Diana interview

Prince William said it was "extremely concerning" to see how BBC employees behaved in setting up the interview and said it should never be broadcast again.

"It is my view that the deceitful way the interview was obtained substantially influenced what my mother said. The interview was a major contribution to making my parents' relationship worse and has since hurt countless others," he said.

"It brings indescribable sadness to know that the BBC's failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those final years with her.

Read more: Prince William welcomes probe into Martin Bashir’s BBC interview with Princess Diana

The statement comes after an inquiry into how Martin Bashir secured an interview with Diana
The statement comes after an inquiry into how Martin Bashir secured an interview with Diana. Picture: PA

"But what saddens me most, is that if the BBC had properly investigated the complaints and concerns first raised in 1995, my mother would have known that she had been deceived.

"She was failed not just by a rogue reporter, but by leaders at the BBC who looked the other way rather than asking the tough questions."

The inquiry found Bashir breached BBC rules by mocking up fake bank statements and showing them to Earl Spencer to gain access to his sister, Princess Diana.

It found he deceived Earl Spencer, and that the BBC "fell short" of integrity standards in its subsequent investigation.

The Queen, Prince Charles and Prince Harry were also among those to receive letters of apology.

But in the Duke of Cambridge’s explosive statement, he said the BBC had lied to obtain the interview with his mother, made "lurid and false claims about the Royal Family which played on her fears and fuelled paranoia", and "displayed woeful incompetence when investigating complaints and concerns about the programme".

"It is my firm view that this Panorama programme holds no legitimacy and should never be aired again. It effectively established a false narrative which, for over a quarter of a century, has been commercialised by the BBC and others," the duke added.

"This settled narrative now needs to be addressed by the BBC and anyone else who has written or intends to write about these events.

"In an era of fake news, public service broadcasting and a free press have never been more important.

"These failings, identified by investigative journalists, not only let my mother down, and my family down; they let the public down too."

In a statement, Prince Harry said: "Our mother was an incredible woman who dedicated her life to service. She was resilient, brave, and unquestionably honest.

"The ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life.

"To those who have taken some form of accountability, thank you for owning it.

"That is the first step towards justice and truth. Yet what deeply concerns me is that practices like these - and even worse- are still widespread today. Then, and now, it's bigger than one outlet, one network, or one publication.

"Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed. By protecting her legacy, we protect everyone, and uphold the dignity with which she lived her life. Let's remember who she was and what she stood for."

Bashir, who stepped down as the BBC's religion editor due to ongoing health issues, responded to Lord Dyson's report, before the Royals' remarks, and said: "This is the second time that I have willingly fully co-operated with an investigation into events more than 25 years ago.

"I apologised then, and I do so again now, over the fact that I asked for bank statements to be mocked up. It was a stupid thing to do and was an action I deeply regret.

"But I absolutely stand by the evidence I gave a quarter of a century ago, and again more recently. I also reiterate that the bank statements had no bearing whatsoever on the personal choice by Princess Diana to take part in the interview."

Mr Davie said: "Although the report states that Diana, Princess of Wales, was keen on the idea of an interview with the BBC, it is clear that the process for securing the interview fell far short of what audiences have a right to expect. We are very sorry for this. Lord Dyson has identified clear failings."