Princess Diana's Friend Says Panorama Interview Contributed to Her Death

Princess Diana's close friend is speaking out against the BBC 25 years after Diana's famous Panorama interview, claiming she was "forensically exploited" — and it contributed to her untimely death.

A story last month in the Sunday Times revealed that Panorama interviewer Martin Bashir created fake bank statements before the November 1995 interview in a bid to convince Diana's brother Charles Spencer that one of his staff was leaking information about their family. Now, Rosa Monckton — who chose Diana as a godmother for her daughter — told the Daily Mail that she noticed a "sudden change" in Diana's behavior after she began meeting with Bashir.

"Diana changed from being very concerned with day-to-day matters, just like any normal friend, to suddenly becoming obsessed with plots against her," Monckton wrote.

Monckton said a paranoid Diana started to think that Prince Charles was having an affair with her sons' nanny, Tiggy Legge-Bourke, and changed her landline number at Kensington Palace.

"She believed Bashir's outrageous claims — one of his skills, clearly, was in exploiting her susceptibility to the idea that she was being spied on by 'enemies.' He even commissioned forged documents to prove this," she added. "You have to remember that this was a woman who spent all her married life being chased by the paparazzi. Little wonder she was susceptible."

In response to the Sunday Times story last month, the BBC said Bashir is unwell and unable to respond: “Questions surrounding Panorama’s interview with the Princess of Wales and in particular the ‘mocking-up’ of bank statements, were covered in the press at the time. BBC records from the period indicate that Martin had explained to the BBC that the documents had been shown to Earl Spencer, and that they were not shown to the Princess of Wales. The BBC’s internal records from the time indicate that Martin had met the Princess of Wales before the mocked-up documentation existed. These accounts also say that the Princess of Wales confirmed in writing that these documents played no part in her decision to give [the interview].”

Then on Monday, the BBC announced that they will hold a “robust and independent investigation.”

"The BBC is taking this very seriously and we want to get to the truth. 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," Tim Davie, BBC's director-general, said.

Monckton said Princess Diana warned her about the television appearance the morning that it aired, not telling her ahead of time because she believed her friend would tell her not to do the interview.

"She was in the grip of interviewer Martin Bashir, and there was not even a glimpse of the level-headed, fun-loving and compassionate person who was my friend," Monckton recalled of watching the interview on TV. "The most chilling part, in retrospect, was when Bashir asked: 'Do you really believe that a campaign has been waged against you?' For what has become clear, thanks to the Mail's disclosures about the heartless and dishonest way Bashir secured his interview with Diana, is the tragic irony behind the question."

Monckton wrote that the interview "dishonestly achieved, probably changed the course of history," prompting Princess Diana and Prince Charles to begin divorce proceedings, "which meant that decisions about their future were made hurriedly, with long-term implications not thought through."

"Among those decisions was the fact that Diana lost her royal title," Diana's friend said. "Had she retained it, she would have still been in the embrace of the Royal Family when in Paris on August 31, 1997. And she would almost certainly not have been in the incapable hands of a speeding drunk driver employed by Mohamed Al-Fayed, who owned the Ritz Hotel where she and his son, Dodi, had dined."

The car accident that killed Diana is believed to have been caused by paparazzi chasing the royal — but Monckton said the BBC is equally responsible.

"For the BBC, our national broadcasting corporation, to behave in this devious and underhand way is just as bad as any of the hunting pack of paparazzi," she said.

Monckton also claimed that Diana told her she later regretted doing the Panorama interview, among other things because "of the damage it did to my boys," she said.

Earlier this month, Spencer, the 9th Earl Spencer, publicly accused the BBC of sending him a "piecemeal apology" for the use of fake documents that were utilized to help secure the famous interview with his sister.

A 1996 BBC internal investigation claimed that the faked papers had "no bearing" on the interview. However, Spencer dismissed these findings and accused the network of "sheer dishonesty" over its conduct.

“[The BBC] have yet to apologize for what truly matters here: the incredibly serious falsification of bank statements suggesting that Diana’s closest confidants were spying on her for her enemies," Spencer told PEOPLE exclusively earlier this month.

"This was what led me to talk to Diana about such things. This in turn led to the meeting where I introduced Diana to Bashir, on 19 September 1995. This then led to the interview," he continued. "The BBC have so far refused to acknowledge the above. They claim Diana wasn’t misled. They have ignored my inquiry as to whether the apology over their false bank statements extends to the ones that actually persuaded Diana to meet Bashir.”

Last week, the BBC reiterated that the organization had apologized to Spencer, telling PEOPLE, “The BBC has apologized. We are happy to repeat that apology. And while this was a quarter of a century ago, we absolutely will investigate — robustly and fairly — substantive new information. We have asked Earl Spencer to share further information with the BBC. Unfortunately, we are hampered at the moment by the simple fact that we are unable to discuss any of this with Martin Bashir, as he is seriously unwell. When he is well, we will of course hold an investigation into these new issues.”

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Monckton concluded her piece for the Daily Mail: "The BBC's role in this affair was not a public service — it was a betrayal of the trust we put in the corporation. It is for the BBC to restore that trust. I hope that director-general Tim Davie's decision yesterday to commission 'a robust and independent investigation' will finally prove a step towards doing so."

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