The judge led inquiry into Martin Bashir’s conduct must be widened to examine other allegations of wrongdoing, a former colleague has said, after it emerged he was accused of almost derailing a child murder case by losing key evidence while working for the BBC.
The former Panorama journalist is to be investigated by Lord Dyson following allegations that he used faked bank statements in order to help secure the 1995 world exclusive interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.
But a journalist who worked alongside Mr Bashir on a 1991 BBC documentary into the infamous Babes in the Wood murders, has said there are serious questions over his conduct while employed by the Corporation then.
Eileen Fairweather has described how they had been working together on the BBC’s Public Eye documentary investigating the murders of Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway in 1986 and the acquittal of prime suspect Russell Bishop.
After approaching the Hadaway family, it is alleged Mr Bashir offered to arrange for DNA tests to be carried out on items of Karen’s clothing.
Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows were murdered in Brighton in 1986
But the tests never took place and when the documentary was dropped Mr Bashir he allegedly failed to return the clothing to the family.
In 2004 when Sussex Police launched a cold case review and requested the return of the potentially crucial evidence, Mr Bashir, who was working in the United States at the time, is said to have claimed he had no recollection of ever meeting the family.
Bishop was eventually convicted of the murders of the girls in 2018, but Mr Bashir’s conduct towards the families has been severely criticised.
Ms Fairweather said: "The inquiry into the Diana incident really ought to be expanded to look at other incidents because if there is a pattern of behaviour here, then there are serious questions around why the BBC sought fit to reemploy Martin Bashir in 2016.
"When we met with the Hadaway family they were absolutely desperate for any ray of hope. He told them he could get DNA tests done on the clothing that could crack the case.
"But when he left with the clothes that was the last time I ever saw him. The documentary was dropped.
"His response when asked about the clothing some years later was appalling. For someone to say they have no recollection of sitting with a grieving mother and then taking her dead child’s clothing away, just beggars belief.
"Who knows whether Bishop might have been brought to justice quicker if the clothing had been found. But also questioning whether the meeting ever took place added immeasurably to the pain of the Hadaway family."
After securing the Diana, Princess of Wales exclusive in 1995 Bashir’s career took off helping him to land more bombshell interviews, including one with Michael Jackson which led to allegations about the entertainer being a paedophile.
Martin Bashir was rehired by the BBC as religious affairs editor in 2016
In 2005 he was poached by the US network, ABC, to co-anchor its current affairs show, and in 2010 he joined the rival network MSNBC as a political commentator.
But in 2013 he was forced to resign after making controversial comments about the former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
He returned to the BBC in 2016 as the network’s Religious Affairs Editor.
Questions over his conduct during negotiations to land the Diana, Princess of Wales interview, reemerged last month when her brother, Earl Spencer claimed he had been duped into providing an introduction.
He has said he would never have helped Mr Bashir had he not been shown forged bank statements, purporting to show that several royal courtiers were in the pay of the security services.
The Earl has questioned the scope of Lord Dyson’s inquiry, saying: "I’m not at all satisfied with the parameters they’ve set around their inquiry into the BBC Panorama interview with Diana of 25 years ago tonight. Lord Dyson must be free to examine every aspect of this matter, from 1995 to today, as he sees fit.”
Ms Fairweather said the inquiry should go even further and look closely at what the Corporation knew about previous allegations surrounding Mr Bashir’s conduct and why he was re-hired in 2016.
Mr Bashir is currently signed off sick as he recovers from heart bypass surgery and also complications from Covid-19 and is unable to comment
A BBC spokesperson said: “It is a fully independent investigation with a suitably wide remit. The notion that it doesn’t cover the BBC’s investigations at the time is incorrect as this is explicitly part of the remit. Clearly, if anyone submits new evidence – or the investigation needs to go to particular places – then Lord Dyson will be able to consider that appropriately.”