Princess Diana interview: Unclear if 'staggering' findings into bombshell broadcast will unite her estranged sons - royal commentator

An inquiry into a sensational BBC interview with Princess Diana in 1995 found disgraced journalist Martin Bashir engaged in "staggering" levels of unprofessionalism, but it's unclear if the "shocking" findings will unite her estranged sons, according to a royal commentator.

The independent investigation, headed by former senior judge John Dyson, was launched in November last year after Diana's brother, Charles Spencer, alleged he had been tricked into introducing the royal to Bashir, then a little-known journalist. 

Dyson's report found Bashir had secured the bombshell interview by showing Spencer false bank statements, forged by a graphic designer. The documents suggested Diana was being bugged by security services and that two senior aides were being paid to pass on insider information. 

The 127-page report concluded that Bashir had "deceived and induced" Spencer to arrange a meeting with Princess Diana. It found the journalist acted "inappropriately", seriously breaching the 1993 edition of the Producers Guidelines on straight dealing. 

In 1996, the BBC launched its own internal probe into Bashir's conduct, which cleared him of any wrongdoing. This was also investigated by the inquiry, which found the probe "woefully ineffective". It also found BBC executives, including former Director-General Tony Hall, had engaged in a "cover-up" of Bashir's deception.

During the interview, which was aired on the programme Panorama, Princess Diana disclosed intimate details of her failed marriage to Prince Charles, famously declaring, "there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded" - referencing Charles' affair with now-wife, Camilla Parker Bowles. She also spoke candidly of her battle with bulimia.

Speaking to The AM Show on Monday, Sean Palmer, the chair of Monarchy New Zealand, described the findings as "absolutely extraordinary".

"In the 21st Century, I think everyone expects the monarchy [will] deal with the media in some way. We expect a bit of intrusion. But the level of deceit and unprofessionalism that has come out of this report is just staggering," he said.

Bashir has since claimed it was a mistake to use forged documents to scare Diana into a meeting, but Palmer dismissed the apology.

"He made the decision at the time. He felt it wasn't enough to just have an interview with Princess Diana. He felt, 'I really have to ratchet up the emotion, I have to scare her, I have to put pressure on her'. It's absolutely shocking. That's a level far beyond what we would normally expect."

But will the findings unite sons William and Harry?

Diana's sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, have each responded to the report's findings, claiming both the broadcaster and Bashir's interview played a role in their parents' divorce and ultimately Diana's death two years later. 

In a video statement earlier this month, William said the broadcaster "made lurid and false claims about the Royal Family which played on her fears and fueled paranoia".

"The interview was a major contribution to making my parents' relationship worse and has since hurt countless others," he 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. But 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'd been deceived."

Prince Harry has also responded to the report's revelations, claiming Diana "lost her life because of this". He added that the "ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices" ultimately led to her death.

However, Palmer expressed scepticism that Dyson's report will unite the reportedly estranged brothers.

"They have expressed concern about media intrusion in the past. It does look like some of that is born out [of] the BBC behaving this way. In terms of if it will bring the two of them together, that's probably anyone's guess at this point. They're certainly unified in their response to this situation," Palmer said.

"It's shocking to think you could have journalists say, 'we're going to make up some fake documents, that's how we'll get the story we want'."

Bashir has denied the broadcast played any role in harming Princess Diana, arguing the late royal was not unhappy with their interview, according to a report by the BBC.

"Everything we did in terms of the interview was as she wanted, from when she wanted to alert the palace, to when it was broadcast, to its contents," Bashir said.

The former journalist, who stepped down from his role as BBC News' religion editor last week, claimed he and Diana became friends following the interview.