Boris Johnson backs BBC’s Martin Bashir probe: Downing Street says Tim Davie was right to order investigation – as graphic designer behind fake bank statements slams Tony Hall for ‘standing by scoop over the truth’
- Downing Street spokesperson says the BBC probe is ‘the right course of action’
- It comes after graphic designer Matt Wiessler criticised ex-BBC boss Tony Hall
- Suggested Lord Hall of Birkenhead was more interested backing the ‘big scoop’
- Matt Wiessler claimed Martin Bashir got him to create two fake bank statements
- Reporter used the documents to win over Princess Diana’s brother Earl Spencer
Boris Johnson has tonight backed the BBC’s probe into claims fake bank statements were used to trick Princess Diana into a bombshell interview with journalist Martin Bashir.
Downing Street says the broadcaster’s director general Tim Davie was right to order the investigation into the claims surrounding the famous 1995 Panorama special.
The Prime Minister’s Official spokesperson said: ‘This is the right course of action. As a public service broadcaster we expect BBC journalists to adhere to the highest standards.
‘The director general has set out that there needs to be an independent investigation into this and the Prime Minister believes that is the right course of action.’
It comes as the graphic designer who produced the fake bank statements launched a savage attack on former director-general Tony Hall for his part in hushing up the scandal.
Matt Wiessler, who was sacked from the BBC after details of his role in making the bank statements emerged, spoke to the BBC’s Today Programme on Tuesday.
A Downing Street spokesperson said the broadcaster’s director general Tim Davie was right to order the investigation into the claims surrounding the famous 1995 Panorama special
Millions watched the Princess say ‘there are three of us in this marriage’ in her famous Panorama interview 25 years ago. Martin Bashir interviewed the Princess during the 19995 BBC Panorama special
He suggested that Lord Hall of Birkenhead, who retired earlier this year, was more interested backing the ‘big scoop’ than in standing by ‘the truth’.
Mr Bashir is said to have played on Princess Diana’s paranoia by telling her lies about the Queen’s health, Prince Charles being ‘in love’ with William and Harry’s nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke and Diana’s staff betraying her to MI5 and newspapers during his attempt to secure the interview.
Mr Wiessler claimed he was ordered by Mr Bashir to create two counterfeit bank statements, which the reporter then used to win over Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer as he tried to meet the Princess.
But one year after the Panorama interview, the corporation excused itself of any wrongdoing at an initial inquiry in 1996 into whether Diana was misled.
However, memos and minutes from 1995 and 1996 suggested Lord Hall – who was then the BBC’s head of news – was among those who had hushed up the scandal.
The memo showed how the BBC board of governors presided over ‘steps to ensure that the graphic designer does not work for the BBC again’.
Speaking of Lord Hall, Mr Wiessler told the BBC’s Mishal Husain: ‘People in his position who are on executive salaries, when push comes to shove and there is a real issue, they shouldn’t stand by the big scoop, they should stand by the truth, that is why they get paid a lot of money.
Lord Hall said in a statement to the BBC that ‘the focus of the original investigation was whether Diana had been misled’.
He said ‘this and any new issues raised will no doubt be looked at by the BBC’s new inquiry’.
The original inquiry concluded that the fake statements played no role in Diana’s decision to do the interview.
But asked what he thinks the BBC’s response should now be, Mr Wiessler demanded that the corporation ‘say sorry publicly’ for the ‘damage that has been done’.
He added: ‘My children know that people call me a forger. I was an award-winning graphic designer.
Matt Wiessler, who was sacked from the BBC after details of his role in making the bank statements emerged, spoke to the BBC’s Today Programme on Tuesday
He suggested that Lord Hall of Birkenhead, who retired earlier this year, was more interested backing the ‘big scoop’ than in standing by ‘the truth’
‘My RTS award is in reception at Television Centre, maybe not to this day but it certainly was then.’
And when asked why he had not spoken out until now, Mr Wiessler said, Because I’m a nobody, who would I speak to?
‘I had to do something to reinvent myself, start a new life. I moved 250 miles away from London.’
He added that Bashir ‘needs to come forward’ because ‘he is the only one that has the answers.
Bashir clinched his access to the princess via her brother, Earl Spencer, who says the journalist showed him copies of bank statements (pictured) which purported to be from the private account of his head of security, Alan Waller. They apparently showed – falsely – that he was receiving money from a newspaper group and a mysterious offshore company
Mr Wiessler also Today he was ‘absolutely gobsmacked’ to discover that ‘a board of governors meeting, there to look into what Martin had done’ had made him ‘the scapegoat’.
‘I don’t know how you can plausibly tell a story that a graphic designer is to blame.
‘And I’ve been living with this for 25 years. And when I saw this, this decree that went out… I was pretty angry … because I thought it was utterly unfair.’
The name of the person who wrote that the ‘graphic designer will not work for the BBC again’ is not published on the internal BBC document.
The BBC had said they needed fresh evidence and the help of Mr Bashir to re-investigate the circumstances into how Mr Bashir’s interview with Diana came about.
The reporter, who is now the BBC’s religious affairs editor, was said to be ‘seriously unwell’ after undergoing heart bypass surgery and contracting Covid-19.
However, he was photographed last Friday walking home after visiting an Indian takeaway and a wine shop. It is believed he will now take part in a second investigation.
Claims allegedly made by Mr Basihr led to an interview with Princess Diana for the BBC’s Panorama, where she said there were ‘three people,’ in her marriage to Prince Charles (pictured together in 1981)
A source told the Daily Mail: ‘The new inquiry will look at absolutely all the available evidence, it will speak to all the protagonists, and that must include Martin Bashir.’
On Monday, the BBC’s new director-general Tim Davie promised to ‘get to the truth’ behind Princess Diana’s interview.
He said: ‘The BBC is taking this very seriously and we want to get to the truth,’ he said.
‘We are in the process of commissioning a robust and independent investigation.
‘The recent stories have highlighted some concerning issues. The BBC must hold ourselves to the gold standard of journalism.’
On Tuesday, Mr Davie was questioned on the subject again on and said it was a ‘significant issue’.
Speaking during an event at the Creative Coalition 2020 festival, which hosts discussions about the creative industries, he also repeated his earlier statement that the BBC would carry out an independent investigation.
The graphic designer who produced fake bank statements which helped trick Princess Diana into a bombshell interview with Martin Bashir launched a savage attack on former director-general Tony Hall for his part in hushing up the scandal
His initial comments came as former chairman Lord Grade said there was ‘a very dark cloud’ hanging over the BBC.
He told BBC Radio 4 programme World At One: ‘The BBC is the gold standard of journalism in this country.
‘For the BBC to be faking documents in the interest of getting a scoop raises very serious questions and the BBC needs to clean this up once and for all.
Mr Wiessler has previously called on the broadcaster to apologise.
He spoke about the impact the experience had had on his life after he was reportedly asked by Mr Bashir to create two bank statements in 1995. He claimed these falsely showed that members of the royal household were being paid by security services to spy on the princess.
Mr Wiessler told new ITV documentary The Diana Interview: Revenge Of A Princess: ‘I quite clearly felt that I was the one that was going to be the fall guy in this story.
‘All I want is for the BBC in this instance to come forward and honestly make an apology. Because it’s had a huge impact.’
He claimed his flat was burgled soon after the interview and only two computer discs were taken – containing the back-up copies he made of the statements.
The earl has claimed that the internal inquiry into whether or not Diana was misled was a ‘whitewash’.
Mr Bashir was photographed last Friday walking home after visiting an Indian takeaway and a wine shop. It is believed he will now take part in a second investigation
The BBC said at the time that Diana had written a note saying she did not see the false bank statements and that they played no part in her decision to give the interview.
The corporation said it no longer has a copy of the letter.
The princess sent shockwaves through the monarchy after the interview, which included candid details about her marriage and Charles’s rumoured relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles, who is now his wife.
Diana also questioned Charles’s suitability as king.
A month later, the Queen urged the separated couple to divorce, which they did in 1996.
The princess died in 1997 in a car crash in Paris.
The devastating testimony of the artist paid by BBC to fake documents
My name is Matthew Wiessler and I worked for BBC News and Current Affairs as a graphic designer between October 1985 and October 1995.
In October 1995 I was asked to reconstruct some documents by Mr Martin Bashir, a reporter on Panorama. Reconstructing documents was not unusual as I had previously been asked to ‘reconstruct’ documents for the use of filming on Panorama. At no time did Mr Bashir explain to me what the documents were for.
Mr Bashir visited my home and briefed me in person on exactly what these documents were to contain. He then left me to complete the job alone. I set up the layout for the documents in his presence, following his explicit instructions. The job took me from 9pm that evening to 7am the next morning.
I was recently shown a copy of the document. I can confirm it contained the following details:
The documents were in the form of two pages of a bank statement. The first page, dated March 1994, shows a single credit from News International for £4,000. The second page, dated two months later, shows a single credit of £6,500 from Penfolds Consultants (Jersey).
The figures I was initially given did not make mathematical sense to me, but after a telephone conversation with Mr Bashir, that was corrected. The bank account statement was from the National Westminster Bank in North Street, Brighton. The account holder was an Alan Waller and Robert Harper, trading as Weider Health and Fitness.
The material was made up from scratch, which involved me reconstructing every element using an Apple Mac desktop computer. I printed it out on a black and white inkjet printer.
On completing these documents, a BBC driver in a car took an envelope addressed to Mr Bashir from my house to Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport.
At the time I stressed to Mr Bashir that this was a personal favour, but that I had to invoice Panorama for a nominal amount of £250.00, an invoice which I submitted several days later and for which I have since been paid.
I thought nothing more of this until several weeks later – around the time of the broadcast of the Bashir interview with Princess Diana – when I discussed it with a producer on Panorama. He was surprised by the inclusion of the name Penfolds on the documents as it was a name we recognised from a previous programme.
Around that time I spoke about the matter to Panorama editor Steve Hewlett, both on the phone and personally. He reassured me that the matter had been settled.
I did nothing more at that stage. Shortly after the Panorama Christmas party in December 1995 I noticed that my backup disks of this work had somehow disappeared.
I decided at that point to tell everything I knew to Tim Gardam, the-then head of weekly programmes, and Tim Suter, managing director of weekly programmes.
They told me that from that point on they would handle the matter and they called in Tony Hall, head of news and current affairs to discuss the matter with him. I expressed real worry as to how my involvement in this matter and my decision to consult them could possibly affect my position as someone who had only just gone freelance. They assured me that there would be no repercussions. At that point I went home.
Later that day I received a call from Tim Gardam reassuring me that they had sorted the matter out. Mr Gardam stressed again that there would be no repercussions for me personally. I have decided to make this statement because I have recently heard rumours which have made me feel uneasy and I wish to set the record straight.
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