Princess Diana 'thought she was being followed', according to her former butler

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·5-min read

Watch: Princess Diana thought she was being followed, biographer says

Princess Diana thought she and her friends were being followed and listened to, according to a new documentary.

Diana’s former butler, Paul Burrell, and her biographer, Andrew Morton, both spoke to ITV as the 25th anniversary of her landmark Panorama interview approaches.

The 1995 interview saw her tell Martin Bashir “there were three people in this marriage, so it was rather crowded” as she addressed Prince Charles’s infidelity.

More than two decades after it became one of the most watched and most talked about interviews, Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, has brought it back into the public eye as he questioned Bashir’s methods of getting to the princess.

Bashir is accused of using forged bank statements to help get access to Diana, but the BBC says the documents had no bearing on fact Diana spoke to Panorama.

But Earl Spencer says without the statements he never would have introduced Bashir to his sister.

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WINDSOR, ENGLAND - MAY 19:  Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer and Karen Spencer arrive at the wedding of Prince Harry to Ms Meghan Markle at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on May 19, 2018 in Windsor, England.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer and Karen Spencer at Harry and Meghan's wedding in 2018. (Getty Images)

The two-part documentary, of which the first episode showed on Monday, 9 November, will explore how Diana increasingly felt concerned about what was going on around her.

Morton said: “Diana certainly was very concerned about the Secret Services, about MI5, about MI6. There were bizarre things going on inside the households of the Prince and Princess of Wales. Her bodyguard, Ken Wharfe, who left her service... felt that he was being followed.

“Her confidante, Richard Kay, a Daily Mail journalist, he was burgled several times and he took to employing a private detective. My own office was broken into, so there's a catalogue of things.”

The documents appeared to suggest anonymous payments were being made to to a former member of staff of Earl Spencer.

Morton added: “Diana knew about the documents, they would have been proof positive that there were machinations against her or against others in her family and elsewhere, and they would underscore the credibility of Martin Bashir, who was insinuating himself into her life.

“I’ve spoken to friends of Diana who said we knew all about these statements before the interview and they had possibly tipped the balance when she was considering whether to do an interview or not.”

Paul Burrell, a longtime royal servant who became Princess Diana's personal assistant and confidante, speaks during an interview in New York, U.S., October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Paul Burrell has said Diana thought she was being followed. (Reuters)

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Princess Diana's former butler Paul Burrell said: “The princess did suspect that she was being followed, that she was being watched. She was under surveillance, whether it was phone hacking or spying.

“There were occasions when we pulled up the floorboards and unscrewed the end of the telephones to see if there are any listening devices. The princess wasn't paranoid, but she was concerned.”

The documentary comes after a week of revelation and accusation from Earl Spencer, and a new pledge by the BBC for another inquiry into the interview.

The BBC has previously said Bashir was too unwell to answer questions, as he was suffering complications from COVID-19.

Bashir was seen collecting a takeaway near his north London home on 8 November.

Graphic designer Matt Wiessler, who was asked to make the bank statements, called for the BBC to answer questions over the interview and said he had been made a “scapegoat”.

A 1996 inquiry into the interview led by Lord Hall said there had been “steps to ensure that the graphic designer will not work for the BBC again”.

Wiessler told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t know how you can plausibly tell a story that a graphic designer is to blame.

“And I’ve been living with this for 25 years. And when I saw this, this decree that went out… I was pretty angry… because I thought it was utterly unfair.”

Watch: Graphic designer demands apology from BBC over Princess Diana interview

The second part of the ITV documentary will also explore how the late princess’s interview ended up being announced on Prince Charles’s birthday.

Diana had done the interview on condition she could tell the palace about it, which meant the BBC needed to get clearance from her to announce it.

Her friend, Richard Kay said: “It may be that Bashir and co said, ‘Well, we want to announce it on the 14th of November.’ And she would have said, ‘Oh, that’s my husbands’ birthday, Yes. Why not?’

“I'd have thought that was typically mischievous Diana.”

But then head of editorial policy at the BBC Richard Ayre had not clocked the significance.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 28: Martin Bashir attends the Pride Of Britain Awards 2019 at The Grosvenor House Hotel on October 28, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
The BBC has said Bashir, here in 2019, is too ill to respond to questions. (Karwai Tang/WireImage)

Confirming the date, and told it was Charles’s birthday, Ayre said: “Oh, really? Frankly, I doubt if any of us involved actually had that date in our diaries.”

The BBC has said in a statement: “We will investigate the issues raised and..this will be independent. We will set out the terms of reference in due course... [and] do everything possible to get to the bottom of this.

“Unfortunately, we are unable to discuss any of this with Martin Bashir, as he is seriously unwell.

“Investigations at the time focused on whether the Princess of Wales had been misled.

“The key … was the Princess’ own written assertion that she had not seen the mocked-up documents and they had played no part in her decision to take part.”

The Diana Interview: Revenge Of A Princess is on ITV at 9pm on Tuesday.