Martin Bashir has long faced backlash for allegedly tricking Princess Diana into sitting down for a bombshell interview with the BBC in 1995  

By Ally Mauch
May 15, 2021 03:15 PM
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Martin Bashir
Martin Bashir
| Credit: Mark Allan/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

Journalist Martin Bashir has quit his post at the BBC ahead of the network's release of the inquiry report investigating his controversial interview with Princess Diana in 1995. 

The BBC's deputy director of news, Jonathan Munro, announced the news to staff in a Friday email, according to The Guardian.

"Martin Bashir has stepped down from his position as the BBC's religion editor and is leaving the corporation. He let us know of his decision last month, just before being readmitted to hospital for another surgical procedure on his heart," Munro wrote. "Although he underwent major surgery toward the end of last year, he is facing some ongoing issues and has decided to focus on his health."

Bashir's Panorama interview with Diana, during which the late royal famously claimed there were "three of us" in her marriage to Prince Charles, swiftly led to an order from Queen Elizabeth that Diana and Charles should divorce (they had separated in 1992). Diana died at age 36 following a car crash in Paris in August 1997, one year after she and Charles officially divorced.

Diana, Princess of Wales, during her interview with Martin Bashir for the BBC
Princess Diana during her Panorama interview
| Credit: PA Images

In October 2020, the Sunday Times alleged that Bashir, 58, improperly manipulated Diana into giving the interview by showing two false bank statements to Diana's brother, Charles Spencer.

Speaking exclusively to PEOPLE in November 2020, Earl Spencer stated that Bashir's documents played a hugely influential role in his decision to approach Diana about the interview, as they alleged that a member of his staff was being paid to leak information about the princess's family.

"This was what led me to talk to Diana about such things," he told PEOPLE at the time. "This, in turn, led to the meeting where I introduced Diana to Bashir, on September 19, 1995. This then led to the interview."

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charles spencer, princess diana
Charles Spencer and Princess Diana
| Credit: Amanda Edwards/WireImage; Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty

Following the Sunday Times report and pressure from Diana's family, the BBC director general, Tim Davie, commissioned an independent inquiry into Bashir's tactics. According to The Guardian, this report has been finished and passed off to the BBC for publication. 

This is not the first time the British news network has looked into the infamous interview between Bashir and Diana — a 1996 BBC internal investigation concluded that the faked papers had "no bearing" on the interview. Earl Spencer, however, dismissed this claim while accusing the BBC of "sheer dishonesty."

"[The BBC] have yet to apologize for what truly matters here: the incredibly serious falsification of bank statements suggesting that Diana's closest confidants were spying on her for her enemies," he told PEOPLE in Nov. 2020.

RELATED: Martin Bashir Showed Princess Diana Fake Abortion 'Receipt' for Nanny Ahead of Panorama Interview: Report

"The BBC have so far refused to acknowledge the above," he continued. "They claim Diana wasn't misled. They have ignored my inquiry as to whether the apology over their false bank statements extends to the ones that actually persuaded Diana to meet Bashir."

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Bashir was also the subject of a criminal investigation earlier this year, though the Metropolitan Police decided in March that "no further action" would be taken against the journalist. 

"In recent months the Metropolitan Police Service received correspondence alleging unlawful activity in connection with a documentary broadcast in 1995," Commander Alex Murray said in a Scotland Yard release. "This was carefully assessed by specialist detectives."

"Following this detailed assessment and in view of the advice we received, we have determined that it is not appropriate to begin a criminal investigation into these allegations," the release continued.