United Kingdom

BBC hit by new Martin Bashir shame

The BBC has been plunged into a fresh crisis over the activities of disgraced reporter Martin Bashir.

MPs last night demanded an inquiry after a Mail on Sunday investigation discovered that the Corporation failed to properly search for a murdered schoolgirl's bloodied clothes that Bashir had lost. 

The rogue journalist – who infamously tricked Princess Diana into the interview that made his name – obtained the clothing from the grieving mother of nine-year-old Babes In The Wood murder victim Karen Hadaway.

The loss of the garments was discovered when she asked for them back to help police undertake a crucial review of evidence in a bid to convict their chief suspect. 

At the time, a BBC spokesman announced 'extensive inquiries' had been made to find them.

The BBC has been plunged into a fresh crisis over the activities of disgraced reporter Martin Bashir (above). MPs last night demanded an inquiry after a Mail on Sunday investigation discovered that the Corporation failed to properly search for a murdered schoolgirl's bloodied clothes that Bashir had lost

But we can reveal today that the Corporation failed to even carry out the most basic checks, including speaking directly to Bashir.

Key journalists who worked alongside him on the Babes In The Wood documentary also said they were never contacted. 

Nor were the families of Karen and fellow victim Nicola Fellows, nor a forensic scientist named by the programme's editor as an expert who could analyse scene-of-crime material.

The acting director-general of the BBC at the time, Mark Byford, has also admitted no 'formal investigation' was held into the missing clothes.

The rogue journalist – who infamously tricked Princess Diana into the interview that made his name – obtained the clothing from the grieving mother (pictured, Michelle Hadaway) of nine-year-old Babes In The Wood murder victim Karen Hadaway

The Corporation failed to even carry out the most basic checks, including speaking directly to Bashir. Key journalists who worked alongside him on the Babes In The Wood documentary also said they were never contacted. Nor were the families of Karen (left) and fellow victim Nicola Fellows (right), nor a forensic scientist named by the programme's editor as an expert who could analyse scene-of-crime material

Last night, Julian Knight MP, chairman of the powerful Commons culture select committee, said: 'These allegations, if proven, would amount to one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the BBC. This could be the BBC's Milly Dowler phone hacking moment.'

He was referring to how journalists at the News Of The World accessed the voicemail of the murdered schoolgirl in 2002, a scandal that helped lead to the newspaper's closure.

Other critics accused the Corporation of showing 'utter contempt for a grieving mother and the police' and demanded yet another independent inquiry into the actions of Bashir.

The revelations come four months after a devastating inquiry by Lord Dyson, a former Supreme Court Justice, ruled that the BBC covered up the deception Bashir deployed to secure his 1995 interview with Princess Diana.

Bashir's earlier investigation into the 1986 Babes In The Wood killings, carried out when he worked for Public Eye, a BBC2 documentary series, has so far escaped major scrutiny.

But now The Mail on Sunday can reveal how:

Critics pointed out that had the BBC investigated the missing clothes fiasco properly, they wouldn't have appointed Bashir religious affairs correspondent in 2016 – a move vocally championed by Jonathan Munro, head of BBC Newsgathering and now one of the frontrunners to take over the powerful role of director of BBC News.

Karen's mother Michelle handed Bashir her daughter's clothes during an interview at her home after he promised to subject them to DNA tests in the hope of discovering new forensic clues about the killer.

Documents unearthed by this newspaper show that Nigel Chapman, Public Eye's editor, ordered Bashir to obtain 'scene-of-crime material' related to the case and hand them to Dr Russell Stockdale, a former Home Office forensic scientist.

Mr Chapman last night said this was not an instruction for Bashir to obtain the clothing and that he was not aware he had done so. Dr Stockdale said he does not recall Bashir asking him to carry out forensic tests or indeed ever carrying out tests for the media.

Karen's dismayed family discovered that the clothes had gone missing in 2004, when Michelle asked for them back so she could give them to Sussex Police, which had started a cold case review in a bid to convict chief suspect Russell Bishop. 

He was nearing the end of his minimum sentence for the attempted murder of another child and police were desperate to prove he had killed Karen and Nicola.

Karen's dismayed family discovered that the clothes had gone missing in 2004, when Michelle asked for them back so she could give them to Sussex Police, which had started a cold case review in a bid to convict chief suspect Russell Bishop (above)

The BBC said at the time that it had made 'extensive' inquiries to find the missing clothing. But Bashir last night said: 'I do not recall being contacted by anyone.'

The BBC said it contacted Bashir's agent, who told them that the reporter, who by then worked for ITV, was unable to help. Astonishingly, the Corporation admitted it did not speak to Bashir directly.

Mr Chapman also said he was not contacted, as did Charlie Beckett, an assistant producer, and Eileen Fairweather, co-author of this investigation and at the time a freelance reporter working with Bashir.

Bill Warner, a former detective inspector who reviewed the case, last night said it would 'without a doubt' have been useful for police to have had the clothes for forensic tests in 2004 as they tried to establish a case against Bishop.

'Even if it couldn't be used in a court of law, it would have been intelligence to say... yes, that person was guilty. And so then you might try to look to obtain other evidence, which supports the intelligence.'

Ms Hadaway last night branded the BBC's failure to properly investigate the whereabouts of her daughter's clothes 'disgusting'. 'I think we were treated really badly and they need to have an inquiry to find out exactly what went wrong within the BBC, she said.

The revelations come four months after a devastating inquiry by Lord Dyson, a former Supreme Court Justice, ruled that the BBC covered up the deception Bashir deployed to secure his 1995 interview with Princess Diana

Ian Heffron, an uncle of Nicola Fellows who called the BBC at least 20 times in early 2004 in a bid to find the clothes, branded the Corporation's investigation 'hollow'.

'All this did at the time was cause more heartache for the families. We were led up garden paths,' he said.

Former Tory leader, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, described the affair as a 'tragic insult to the memory of this poor girl' and called for an inquiry 'to clear up exactly what happened'.

He added: 'I just don't understand what it is with the BBC and Martin Bashir,.

The acting director-general of the BBC at the time, Mark Byford (above), has also admitted no 'formal investigation' was held into the missing clothes

Princess Diana's brother Earl Spencer (pictured) said he is 'fully committed' to helping Ms Hadaway uncover the truth

Writing for this newspaper, Dorothy Byrne, a former head of news at Channel 4, said the Corporation's failure to launch a major inquiry in 2004 'exposes utter contempt for a grieving mother and the police.'

Bashir said: 'I am very sorry that the circumstances surrounding these clothes have caused Mrs Hadaway further distress in addition to her tragic loss.'

The BBC also said it was 'extremely sorry for the distress this has caused Mrs Hadaway and we deeply regret we have not been able to give her answers about what happened'.

A spokeswoman said it was incorrect to suggest its investigations unit did not make contact with those who might have known where the clothing was. 

'The records show individuals were contacted, including the Public Eye editor and a Public Eye journalist. Martin Bashir was contacted via his agent who told us that Martin was unable to assist with the whereabouts of the clothes.'

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