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PA/Ian West
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UK News

Christian journalist Martin Bashir on Diana interview: 'I am properly repentant of what happened'

by Chantalle Edmunds

The former Christian religious affairs editor of the BBC, Martin Bashir, has apologised to Prince William and Harry and said he hopes people will allow him "the opportunity to show that I am properly repentant of what happened."

Speaking to the Times newspaper, Bashir, 58, said he "never wanted to harm Diana in any way and I don't believe we did."

He added that everything that was done in terms of the interview was done how she wanted, including its contents and that he "loved" the Princess. He also rejected comments read out by the Duke of Cambridge on Thursday evening that the way the interview was obtained fuelled Diana's isolation and paranoia. 

"I don’t feel I can be held responsible for many of the other things that were going on in her life, and the complex issues surrounding those decisions," Bashir said.

He said he remained friends with the Princess after the programme aired and she visited his wife in a south London hospital on the day she gave birth to the couple's third child.

On the subject of showing Earl Spencer forged bank statements, Bashir said: "Obviously I regret it, it was wrong. But it had no bearing on anything.... it had no bearing on the interview."

Bashir, who's Anglican, told the Times he was a young man of 32 when the interview took place and he hoped that people would believe that he has redeemed himself. "I hope in the time since I re-joined the BBC, I have demonstrated higher levels of probity and integrity."

As to whether he is able to forgive himself, he said it was a "serious error" but added, "I hope that people will allow me the opportunity to show that I am properly repentant of what happened."

An inquiry by Lord Dyson found that deceitful behaviour was used to try to obtain Bashir's interview with Princess Diana in 1995. 

It found that the journalist was in 'serious breach' of the BBC’s producer guidelines when he faked bank statements and showed them to Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, to gain access to the princess, the report said.

Bashir commissioned documents purporting to show payments into the bank account of Alan Waller, a former employee of Earl Spencer, Commander Patrick Jephson, Diana’s private secretary, and Commander Richard Aylard, private secretary to the Prince of Wales, according to Lord Dyson.

The former master of the rolls and head of civil justice was appointed to look into the circumstances surrounding the explosive interview, which famously featured Diana saying:'Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.'

The report said: "By showing Earl Spencer the fake Waller and Jephson/Aylard statements and informing him of their contents, Mr Bashir deceived and induced him to arrange a meeting with Princess Diana. By gaining access to Princess Diana in this way, Mr Bashir was able to persuade her to agree to give the interview."

An internal investigation by the BBC into the matter in 1996 was "woefully ineffective," it added.

Prior to his interview with the Times, Bashir apologised for faking bank documents and said it was "a stupid thing do to do" and "an action I deeply regret", but added he felt it had "no bearing whatsoever on the personal choice by Princess Diana to take part in the interview."

Bashir rejoined the BBC in 2016, becoming the corporation’s religion correspondent. He left this month on health grounds following months of battling with Covid-19. 

Additional reporting by PA

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