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Our Beautiful Princess, scared half to death, bullied and lied to; the paranoia was real

Posted by Caribbean World Magazine on 23 December 2020 | 0 Comments

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23 December 2020

Lord Dyson’s damning report reveals the BBC covered up the deceit involved in securing THAT interview with journalist Martin Bashir a year before her death. 

At the time of her untimely death, Princess Diana was convinced she was being followed and spied on using surveillance equipment, and that her safety was in danger. Media reports suggested this was entirely illusory: the result of a vulnerable woman’s fragile mental health and obsessive paranoia. 

However last month’s “unconditional apology” from the BBC hasrevealed that Diana, Princess of Wales, had every right to be suspicious of the people around her. The independent inquiry by Lord Dyson, a former senior judge, ruled that the BBC obtained the  1995 interview through the deception and lies of Martin Bashirwho went so far as to get documents and bank statements forged to scare her. 

Martin Bashir - a relatively junior BBC journalist at the time - used fake bank statements to secure the interview with Diana and claimed they showed a trail of payments from News International and a trust fund to the BBC. The implication being that “everyone was out to get her” and that few people could be trusted. Bashir’s motives were clear: to get Diana thinking that he had contacts inside MI5 and was sufficiently well-connected to know that the Princess was a pawn in a much bigger game. He engaged in cloak-and-dagger negotiations with her Brother Earl Spencer, meeting in underground car parks with plausible evidence that Diana’s every move was being tracked, monitored and traced. Diana, who could see no reason why the BBC would not be truthful, was terrified into a state of fear and trepidation and that encouraged her to speak out. 

Bashir, though now disgraced, built his career on the 1995 world exclusive interview, in which Princess Diana confirmed Prince Charles' relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles. With what she knew from Bashir, Diana saw no reason to hold back and described in frank detail how she believed royal life had made her bulimic. She also admitted having an affair, said Prince Charles's lengthy affair with Camilla Parker Bowles (now his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall) had made her feel worthless, spoke of there being "three of us" in the marriage, suggested Prince Charles might not be able to adapt to being king and suggested his staff were waging a campaign against her. The interview caused instant shockwaves and widened the gulf between her and the rest of the Royal Family. She was isolated, frightened and unable to trust anyone with her existing anxieties intensified by the lies that Bashir convinced her were real. 

Although the findings of the independent investigation come 25 years too late, it has been welcomed by Princess Diana’s sons William and Harry who have long been highly critical of the role the media played in their mother’s death. Martin Bashir's interview with Princess Diana, broadcast by Panorama, was a huge scoop for the BBC. Never before had a serving royal spoken in such candid terms about life in the Royal Family. More than 20 million people watched the programme and in the aftermath of the unfolding controversy, the Queen wrote to Prince Charles and Princess Diana instructing them to divorce. The couple had married in London's St Paul's Cathedral, in 1981. The divorce was finalised in 1996. 

Lord Dyson described Bashir as "deceitful” and revealed how a previous internal BBC inquiry in 1996 covered up the journalist’s malpractice. 

Both of Diana’s sons have spoken out about mental health issues and Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, slammed the BBC for contributing "significantly to the fear, paranoia and isolation" felt by his late mother in the years before her death. The duke also accused the BBC of commercializing a "false narrative" about his mother. William's brother -- Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex -- issued an equally emotional statement after the report in which he said, "The ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life." 

In a Sunday Times interview, Bashir - who left the BBC citing health reasons just before the report findings were published - apologised to the dukes of Cambridge and Sussex saying he is "deeply sorry," but disputed the charge he fueled Princess Diana's isolation and paranoia. "Even in the early 1990s, there were stories and secretly recorded phone calls. I wasn't the source of any of that," he said. However Earl Spencer has suggested a direct link between the Bashir interview and her death. "The irony is that I met Martin Bashir on the 31 of August 1995, because exactly two years later she died. And I do draw a line between the two events," he said in a new BBC Panorama documentary broadcast to coincide with Lord Dyson’s findings 

Prince William also criticised the failings of the BBC, saying it "not only let my mother down, and my family down; they let the public down too." 

Diana died just a year after her divorce, in 1997, in a car crash in Paris, along with her companion Dodi Fayed, and their driver, Henri Paul. The vehicle they were in had been speeding away from a chasing pack of paparazzi. Mr Paul lost control and smashed into a a concrete pillar in a tunnel. Analysis indicated he had levels of alcohol in his blood at the time. 

The BBC accepts that the report has identified it has "clear failings" but assures it now  has better procedures in place to prevent interview being secured again in this way.  This is not the first time the BBC has been embroiled in a high profile scandal. A decade ago, it was right at the centre of a notable controversy involving one of its biggest celebrity stars, Sir Jimmy Saville. 

A "prolific, predatory" sex offender who used his celebrity status and charity work to carry out sex attacks for half-a-century in plain sight, Saville is believed to have been responsible for at least 214 criminal offences across 28 police forces, between 1955 and 2009. A report, Giving Victims a Voice, by Dame Janet Smith, found that 73 per cent of his victims were children, and the allegations of abuse span 14 medical establishments as well as a number of departments and studios at the BBC. Saville himself died in 2011, before the scandal became public. 

According to Dame Smith, the BBC missed five major opportunities to stop the activities of Jimmy Savile.Five of its senior employees failed to report the suspicious behaviour of the sexual predator with a total of 117 witnesses to her inquiry who had worked at the BBC confirming they were aware of rumours about Savile’s sexual conduct.