High-profile British journalist Martin Bashir has quit the BBC ahead of a report expected to strongly criticise his behaviour in securing his famous Panorama interview with Princess Diana 25 years ago.
The BBC announced to staff on Friday that Bashir, 58, had resigned as the corporation’s religion editor. The decision brings to an end the career of one of the most successful and controversial television journalists of his era.
In an email sent to newsroom colleagues, the corporation said ongoing ill health had forced Bashir to stand down, but there was inevitable speculation he had quit before he could be sacked.
His departure comes amid a furore over how he obtained his interview with Princess Diana in 1995 in which she revealed there were “three of us in this marriage” in reference to Prince Charles’s affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. The interview was one of the BBC’s greatest scoops.
The broadcaster launched an inquiry six months ago headed by Lord Dyson, the former Master of the Rolls, into Bashir’s journalistic methods. Lord Dyson’s report is due to be published as early as next week.
An inquiry spokesman said on Friday night: “Lord Dyson has concluded his investigation and the report has been passed to the BBC for publication in due course.”
The report is expected to condemn Bashir over his mocking up of fake bank statements said to have been used to persuade Earl Spencer to introduce the reporter to his sister. The statements showed false payments made to Earl Spencer’s former head of security from a tabloid newspaper and an offshore company.
Bashir is also accused of making up a series of fantastical claims to then ensure Princess Diana went ahead with the interview.
The Telegraph understands Bashir was given prior warning of a series of criticisms contained in the Dyson report as part of a legal process before publication.
The Princess Diana interview made Bashir’s name but he left the BBC for ITV and then to take up lucrative jobs in the US before rejoining the corporation in 2016, covering religious affairs.
Bashir was struck down by Covid-19 last year and then underwent a quadruple heart bypass in the late summer and has not been seen on television screens for many months. He was on sick leave when the scandal over the Panorama interview resurfaced on its 25th anniversary.
Bashir has insisted he is too ill to speak publicly and defend his reputation, although The Telegraph is aware he mounted a vigorous defence of his actions in giving evidence to Lord Dyson.
Bashir has denied wrongdoing.
He has been on sick pay – on a fraction of his normal salary – and will not receive a payoff as a result of handing in his resignation.
Senior executives had wanted to sack Bashir last year, but decided to wait for the outcome of the Dyson inquiry. Tim Davie, the BBC’s director-general, had ordered the Dyson review in the face of fierce criticism not only of Bashir but of claims senior executives had covered up his alleged deceit at the time.
In an email to staff, Jonathan Munro, deputy director of BBC News, said Bashir had quit his post because of ongoing ill health. The note made no mention of the Lord Dyson inquiry nor a separate investigation into Bashir’s journalistic methods being conducted by Panorama, the programme which made his name.
The Panorama investigation – effectively investigating itself over events 25 years ago – had been due to be aired on Monday but its broadcast was postponed over a “duty of care” to Bashir.
It is unclear when the Panorama investigation will now be screened, but BBC sources insisted it had been delayed rather than cancelled.
In his note, Munro wrote: “Martin Bashir has stepped down from his position as the BBC’s Religion Editor, and is leaving the Corporation.
“He let us know of his decision last month, just before being readmitted to hospital for another surgical procedure on his heart. Although he underwent major surgery toward the end of last year, he is facing some ongoing issues and has decided to focus on his health. We wish him a complete and speedy recovery.”
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