United Kingdom

BBC plot to axe 'troublemakers' who criticised Martin Bashir over Princess Diana interview 

BBC bosses plotted to 'pick off' Panorama staff who exposed Martin Bashir's rogue tactics, according to an explosive document on the Princess Diana scandal.

The memo suggests executives discussed 'troublemakers' and how to get rid of them 'one by one'.

Panorama reporters had come forward to blow the whistle on Bashir's use of forged bank statements to secure his historic 1995 television interview with Diana.

But instead of being thanked, the staffers were reportedly told by the programme's editor it was not any of their 'f****** business'.

Then what critics believe was a cover-up was launched, starting with an alleged cull to get rid of the whistleblowers.

In April 1996, Matt Wiessler, the graphics designer who mocked up the bank statements on Bashir's orders, was made a scapegoat and sacked.

A new document suggests BBC executives plotted to 'pick off' whistleblowers who shared any concerns about tactics used by Martin Bashir to secure 1995 interview with Diana (pictured)

According to a source familiar with the new document, which is from minutes of a news and current affairs board meeting that month, bosses discussed embarking on a 'disciplinary' route to tackle the whistleblowers.

But it noted that they would need 'proof' and suggested an alternative that would instead 'pick off' these people 'one by one'.

Well-placed sources who were at the BBC at the time say a number of those who raised concerns with bosses about Bashir's behaviour were forced off the show in the following months.

Lord Dyson, the former judge commissioned to investigate the scandal, is believed to have had access to the document. It is not known whether he will refer to it in his bombshell report, due to be published tomorrow or possibly Thursday.

But it chimes with a previously released dossier showing that corporation chiefs had vowed to 'deal with leakers and remove persistent troublemakers'.

Meanwhile, the row over a new Panorama investigation into the Diana interview scandal due to have been broadcast last night – but shelved on the orders of director-general Tim Davie – intensified yesterday.

An investigation is now taking place into Martin Bashir's BBC interview with Diana in 1995

The BBC won praise for commissioning Panorama to, in effect, investigate itself.

Veteran investigative reporter John Ware spent five months preparing a half-hour programme to be broadcast ahead of the Dyson report.

But then Mr Davie pulled the show last Friday, the same day it announced that Bashir, 58, was quitting the BBC as religion editor.

Some corporation sources said the decision was 'ludicrous', and Diana's brother Earl Spencer, a key interviewee on the programme, voiced his anger on Twitter.

Last night there were signs the BBC was on the verge of a humiliating U-turn. It is understood the corporation intends to broadcast the Panorama show after all, on the same day as the Dyson report, albeit in the evening.

The U-turn would make a mockery of the decision to postpone it from last night, if the delay turns out to be only 48 or 72 hours.

In recent months Martin Bashir has battled Covid and undergone a quadruple heart bypass. The 58-year-old stood down last week as the BBC's religion editor, it was announced 

A BBC spokesman has explained the postponement by saying it was because of a 'significant duty of care issue' – believed to refer to Bashir, who has been on sick leave following heart surgery.

It is understood the journalist was back in hospital last week. A friend of Bashir said yesterday that he was 'very low' and was 'very worried about Dyson'.

The peer was asked to uncover the truth about Bashir's tactics in winning the 1995 Diana scoop.

Bashir is accused of peddling lies and smears to persuade a vulnerable Diana to give her world-famous interview that November.

In the subsequent broadcast she rocked the Royal Family by saying 'there were three of us in this marriage'.

She divorced Prince Charles the following summer and died in Paris a year later.

Lord Dyson has interviewed all the key players, including Lord Hall, who was head of news at the time and went on to become director-general until he stood down in August last year.

He was also given access to BBC archives. It is unclear whether the document revealed today by the Mail will appear in his final report.

But one source said it was 'astonishing' that the BBC had written down in an official document the way in which it was going to target members of its own staff.

A spokesman for the BBC said last night: 'The BBC is determined to get to the truth about the circumstances surrounding the Panorama interview in 1995 and has commissioned Lord Dyson to carry out a fully independent investigation.'

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