Where is Martin Bashir now - and why was the Princess Diana interview so controversial?

The tell-all Panorama interview with Princess Diana in 1995 may have been the journalist's most iconic, but where is he now and was it worth the risk?

Martin Bashir pictured on the red carpet
(Image credit: Getty)

Martin Bashir first joined the BBC in 1986 and would go on to become a household name following a tell-all Panorama interview with Princess Diana in 1995. 

The controversial programme was watched by 23 million people and would win Bashir a BAFTA Award, TV Journalist of the Year from the Broadcasting Press Guild and Journalist of the Year from the Royal Television Society before he fell from his pedestal.

Today (July 21), in order to settle an ongoing court case, The BBC agreed to pay substantial damages to the former royal nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke after Bashir claimed she had an affair with Prince Charles in order to obtain the controversial 1995 interview with Diana.

Where is Martin Bashir now?

Bashir stepped down from his position as the BBC’s religion editor in May 2021, citing ongoing health issues as the reason for his departure. His resignation from the BBC coincided with an investigation into his Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales. He no longer works and resides in a £1.7 million, six-bedroom home in Hampshire.

At the end of 2020, Martin Bashir had major cardiac surgery and was admitted to hospital for another procedure on his heart in February 2021. He also contracted coronavirus around the same time. Jonathan Munro, the BBC’s deputy director of news, said in a message to staff, “We wish him a complete and speedy recovery.”

Why was Martin Bashir’s interview with Diana controversial?

At the time of its broadcast, the only controversy surrounding the interview was directed at comments made by Diana. But in later years, the methods used to convince the princess to take part in the BBC interview were bought into question. This sparked a new controversy with Martin Bashir at the centre - and one that left Prince William and Harry 'sick with rage' (opens in new tab)

Bashir was later found to have mocked up fake bank statements in order to gain access to the princess. He was also accused of lying to her brother Earl Spencer to bring him on side, and claimed the former royal nanny, Tiggy Legge-Bourke, had an affair with Prince Charles.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast's Sally Nugent on Monday, Earl Spencer said, "It's clear to me that there there are certain people who were in the BBC, who have behaved in a way that is truly abysmal and possibly criminal."

At the time of the 1995 interview, secrets regarding the inner workings of the royal family had been heavily guarded and never before had a serving royal spoken so candidly about life in the royal spotlight.

In the interview, Diana famously commented on Prince Charles’ relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles, saying, "There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded." Shortly after the interview aired, the Queen wrote to Prince Charles and Princess Diana telling them to divorce. 

Martin Bashir interviewing Princess Diana

(Image credit: Getty)

Did Princess Diana regret the interview with Martin Bashir?

Despite all the controversy at the time, Princess Diana said that she had “no regrets” regarding the interview. The quote came via a 1995 note written after Bashir was asked by BBC executives to provide evidence Diana had not been shown fake bank statements.

In her book, The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor, the Truth and the Turmoil (opens in new tab), biographer Tina Brown writes, “I am told by Lalvani (a British entrepreneur who had dated Diana shortly before her death) that Diana said she had no regrets about the interview and made clear that she had said exactly what she wanted to say on camera. She was pleased about it [the interview], Lalvani confirmed to me. She didn’t have a bad word to say about Martin Bashir. She realised it served her purpose.”

However, the full extent of the deceit experienced by Diana would go unknown until 2021, when an independent inquiry (opens in new tab) by Lord Dyson, a former senior judge, uncovered the full picture. Following the inquiry's findings, Prince William said in a rare, public statement, "What saddens me most, is that if the BBC had properly investigated the complaints and concerns first raised in 1995, my mother would have known that she had been deceived."

Did Martin Bashir forge bank statements?

Matt Wiessler, a graphic artist working for the BBC, said he had been asked by Martin Bashir to produce fake bank statements. These appeared to show payments by a newspaper group to a former member of staff employed by Earl Spencer, Princess Diana's brother. The Lord Dyson inquiry said this was to gain Earl Spencer's confidence so he would introduce Bashir to Diana. 

The inquiry also deemed that The BBC covered up how Bashir scored the interview. Both the BBC and Bashir have apologised over the matter. Bashir said that falsifying the documents was “a stupid thing to do” but he will “always remain immensely proud of that interview”.

How did William and Harry react to Martin Bashier’s interview?

Both Prince William and Harry have publicly stated their disapproval (opens in new tab) and disgust at the methods used by Bashir to secure the interview with their mother. Both released separate, scathing statements the day that the inquiry findings were released. 

In an emotional statement, Prince William said, “It brings indescribable sadness to know that the BBC’s failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those final years with her.

“She was failed not just by a rogue reporter, but by leaders at the BBC who looked the other way rather than asking the tough questions.”

Harry also issued a full statement linking "unethical practices" to the princess' death in a car crash in Paris in 1997. He said, “The ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life. To those who have taken some form of accountability, thank you for owning it.

“What deeply concerns me is that practices like these, and even worse, are still widespread today. Then, and now, it’s bigger than one outlet, one network, or one publication. Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed.”

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Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse
Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is royal news and entertainment writer for Goodto.com. She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.