United Kingdom

Princess Diana's brother hits out as BBC shelves Martin Bashir Panorama 

Princess Diana's brother on Sunday night lambasted the BBC after its director-general shelved Monday's bombshell Panorama probe into the scandal over her famous interview.

Tim Davie dramatically pulled the plug on Friday, around the time he was handed a potentially devastating report by former judge Lord Dyson into how journalist Martin Bashir secured the 1995 chat.

On the same afternoon, it was announced that Bashir, who had been on sick leave from his role as religion editor, had resigned from the corporation to 'focus on his health'.

On Sunday night, Earl Spencer tweeted: 'Well, there's a surprise. What's next? My guess: a rush by the BBC director-general to get Lord Dyson's report out, before its expected publication date on Friday, so he can claim, with apparent regret: "Sadly this Panorama is now no longer relevant".'

Princess Diana's brother lambasted the BBC after its director-general shelved the bombshell Panorama probe into the scandal over her famous interview (pictured) with Martin Bashir

Both the programme and the report are expected to expose failings at the highest levels of the corporation, which is accused of a cynical cover-up.

The BBC has been plunged into fresh turmoil over the mess left 26 years ago by Bashir's interview with Diana, in which she famously declared 'there are three of us in this marriage'.

After the Daily Mail revealed last November that Bashir allegedly spun a web of lies to trick the Princess of Wales into doing the interview, the BBC launched two inquiries.

It commissioned former Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson to conduct an investigation. And it asked veteran reporter John Ware to make a programme for Panorama – in effect, the flagship current affairs show investigating itself.

On Friday at 6pm, almost six months on, Lord Dyson delivered his findings to BBC top brass. They will be published later this week. 

Shortly before, Mr Davie held a video conference call with the production team and senior executives in which it was decided to 'postpone' tonight's programme.

Earl Spencer (pictured in 2015) took to Twitter on Sunday night to criticise the decision to shelve the Panorama TV expose, which was due to go out on Monday

Tim Davie (pictured) pulled the plug on Friday, around the time he was given a potentially devastating report by Lord Dyson into how journalist Bashir secured the 1995 chat

The Mail has been told that during the meeting, it was pointed out to the director-general that he had agreed to let the Panorama be broadcast in advance of the Dyson report. He allegedly replied: 'Really, guys?'

Amid questions over whether it will ever be aired, Lord Spencer – who is said to have given testimony to the camera that is 'utterly devastating for the BBC' – has told friends he intends to wait and see what Lord Dyson says in his report, and 'weigh up his options'.

One source said: 'As far as Charles Spencer is concerned, he has faith in Lord Dyson. He has none whatsoever in Tim Davie doing the right thing.

'Apart from anything else, Spencer has evidence of senior figures in the BBC briefing against him even very recently.

He's not going to let this go: he's vowed to get to the bottom of what happened in 1995-96, and all that's followed by way of cover-up over the past 25 years.'

The special had originally been slated for broadcast a month ago, but delayed by the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

BBC sources said the decision to can tonight's Panorama programme was 'ludicrous', adding that it had been brave of the BBC to commission a film into its own potential failings – but cowardly to shelve it on the day top brass were privately shown Lord Dyson's findings.

Mr Ware, who is freelance but also one of Panorama's most experienced journalists, has spent months probing the scandal. He did not respond to phone calls or text messages yesterday.

On the same afternoon, it was announced that Bashir (pictured), who had been on sick leave from his role as religion editor, had resigned from the corporation to 'focus on his health'

Another BBC stalwart who has known Mr Ware for decades said: 'John is one of the most trusted journalists in Britain. He took on this job without fear or favour. You can imagine how he must be feeling.

'He has exposed many things about the way the BBC handled the Princess Diana interview – at their behest – yet they have taken the cowardly decision to censor his findings.'

Allies of Bashir, 58, who has undergone heart surgery, said at the weekend he was justified in urging the BBC to drop the programme because he was a member of staff and it owed him a duty of care while on sick leave.

It was claimed Bashir, through his representatives, has 'aggressively played the health card'.

Jonathan Munro, head of BBC newsgathering, told staff on Friday that Bashir had 'stepped down'.

It is understood Bashir, who sold his London townhouse in November and moved to Winchester, did not receive a payoff.

All participants in Lord Dyson's inquiry – including Earl Spencer and Bashir – will be able to read his report two hours before it is made public.

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