Charles, 9th Earl Spencer, released a scathing letter to the BBC over tactics used to secure Diana's Panorama interview 25 years ago

By Simon Perry
November 03, 2020 11:31 AM
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Princess Diana sitting for her Panorama interview
| Credit: PA Images

Charles Spencer, the brother of Princess Diana, has accused the BBC of sending him a “piecemeal apology” for the use of faked documents that were deployed to help secure Diana's famous TV interview 25 years ago.

The 9th Earl Spencer released a scathing letter sent to the head of the BBC, accusing the outlet of a “whitewash” over unethical tactics used to secure Diana's 1995 interview on Panorama, in which she said there were “three of us” in her marriage — a clear reference to Camilla Parker Bowles, then mistress of Prince Charles.

A story last month in the Sunday Times revealed that Panorama interviewer Martin Bashir created bogus bank statements before the November 1995 interview in a bid to convince Spencer that one of his staff was leaking information about the princess’s family. A 1996 BBC internal investigation concluded that the faked papers had "no bearing" on the interview, a claim Spencer dismissed while accusing the BBC of "sheer dishonesty" over the BBC's conduct.

“[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," Spencer tells PEOPLE exclusively.

"This was what led me to talk to Diana about such things. This in turn led to the meeting where I introduced Diana to Bashir, on 19 September 1995. This then led to the interview," he continues. "The BBC have so far refused to acknowledge the above. 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.”

Charles Spencer and Princess Diana
| Credit: Amanda Edwards/WireImage; Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty

In a letter to the director-general of the BBC, Tim Davie, published by the Daily Mail on Tuesday, Spencer, 56, calls for a new inquiry. He tells Davie there needs to be a “much larger apology: One directed posthumously to Diana; to all who were grossly lied to — including a global audience; and to me.”

“Why did [the original BBC inquiry] bend over backwards to whitewash Bashir? Who else knew the extent of his yellow journalism?” Spencer wrote.

In the stunning letter, Spencer — who took notes of his meetings with Bashir and Diana in the late summer of 1995 — also levels a number of new accusations, including one that Bashir made the incendiary and false suggestion that Diana's private secretary, Patrick Jephson, and Prince Charles’s private secretary, Richard Aylard, had been paid off by security services.

Princess Diana
| Credit: Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty

Furthermore, Spencer reveals a letter that Bashir sent him, in which Bashir suggests that sensational rumors had been circulating about royal nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke “about recurring intimacy between her and a particular individual.”

Tiggy Pettifer, as she is now known, is a godmother to Prince Harry's 1-year-old son Archie.

The Panorama interview led swiftly to an order from Queen Elizabeth that Diana and Charles should divorce (they had separated in 1992), which they did in 1996. Diana died at age 36 following a car crash in Paris in August 1997.

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On Tuesday, the BBC reiterated that the organization had apologized to Spencer, telling PEOPLE, “The BBC has apologized. We are happy to repeat that apology. And while this was a quarter of a century ago, we absolutely will investigate — robustly and fairly — substantive new information. We have asked Earl Spencer to share further information with the BBC. Unfortunately, we are hampered at the moment by the simple fact that we are unable to discuss any of this with Martin Bashir, as he is seriously unwell.  When he is well, we will of course hold an investigation into these new issues.”