If Diana died believing Bashir's lies, I hope that haunts him for ever

If Diana died believing Martin Bashir’s lies, I hope that it haunts him for ever, writes the Princess’ former protection officer KEN WHARFE

When I read about the appalling catalogue of lies that Martin Bashir told in order to secure his Panorama interview with Princess Diana, my first reaction was disbelief.

Earl Spencer, the late princess’s brother, revealed to the Mail this week the comprehensive notes he had taken during his meetings with Bashir, when the journalist was trying to recruit him to his campaign to get the interview.

Among the 32 claims reportedly made by Bashir in Spencer’s dossier, including absurd accusations about members of the Royal Family and household, the one that jumped out at me was the very first.

It referred to claims apparently made by MI6, that Commander Richard Aylard, Prince Charles’s private secretary, ‘orchestrates everything’ and ‘commissioned Ken Wharfe (scum)’.

Loyal: Princess Diana with Ken Wharfe, her personal protection officer, in 1992. 

The implication was that under orders from Aylard I somehow spied on Diana, my former employer, feeding the information to her enemies including the Security Services.

The idea is so preposterous it reads like a bad spy novel.

The allegations about me and other senior household staff – along with the other lies that Bashir told – would be laughable were they not so hurtful, smearing people who took their role and their loyalty to the princess extremely seriously. 

In the six years I worked as Diana’s personal protection officer I did everything in my power to look after her. It was my raison d’etre.

I was by her side almost constantly, I would have given my life for her and her boys. 

When I read about the appalling catalogue of lies that Martin Bashir told in order to secure his Panorama interview with Princess Diana, my first reaction was disbelief.

We trusted each other. I was more than her bodyguard: she often turned to me for advice, and I would give it, always putting her interests and those of her children first. So to be accused of secretly betraying her is incredibly distressing.

We will never know which exactly of Bashir’s allegations Diana believed. But he clearly managed to sow doubts in her mind.

He even told her that some of her close friends were briefing against her and that she was being spied upon, not just by me and Richard Aylard – a man of absolute integrity, who had been Diana’s equerry before going to work for Charles – but also by Patrick Jephson, her private secretary who was equally loyal.

Martin Bashir cleverly played on Diana’s existing fears that she was being spied on

At the time, the relationship between Diana’s and Charles’s households was absolutely caustic. 

So the idea that they were united – along with me – in a conspiracy with the Security Services against her makes no sense at all.

Yet, Bashir cleverly played on her existing fears that she was being spied on.

In the late Eighties, when relations between her and Prince Charles were at a low point and Charles’s friends and courtiers were briefing against her, she became fearful that he and his office were bugging her. 

We had the police sweep her Kensington Palace apartment for bugs: there were none. She even employed a private security firm to search for devices. Again, nothing was found.

But while she suspected outsiders, she never imagined that her own staff might be spying on her – she had total trust in them.

She was always close to her staff and kind to them, insisting that everyone was called by their first name. (An attitude totally different from that of Prince Charles and the rest of the Royal Family, who had an Upstairs-Downstairs relationship with staff.)

So if Bashir manipulated her into believing that I and other employees whom she trusted had actually betrayed her, that is absolutely tragic. The idea that she may have gone to her death believing it makes me incredibly sad and angry.

I left my position with Diana in 1993, two years before she met Bashir, to become head of the close protection unit at Buckingham Palace. During my time with her I saw how she had to cope with Prince Charles’s affair with Camilla.

I was with her when, every Sunday night, she drove the boys back to London for school the next day, while Prince Charles remained at Highgrove. Diana knew very well that Camilla would turn up ten minutes after she had left.

By 1995 the couple had separated and she was at a low ebb. Her ambitions of doing ambassadorial work had come to nothing, and she was reeling from Prince Charles’s interview with Jonathan Dimbleby the previous year in which he admitted to his affair but claimed that it had only begun after his marriage had ‘irretrievably broken down’.

That was not true, incidentally – their marriage was still alive when Charles rekindled his relationship with Camilla. Diana had naively believed that Camilla would eventually go away and she and Charles could get on with their lives.

So she was devastated when Prince Charles made this claim, and when he and his team began briefing against her saying, ‘She’s paranoid, she needs help’.

I understand why she wanted to do the interview: it was her chance finally to tell the truth about her marriage. Pictured: Prince Charles and Princess Diana on their wedding day in 1981

There was some paranoia but it was entirely justified where Camilla was concerned.

Perhaps being proved right about Camilla made her more susceptible to Bashir, and to the idea that people were not only briefing against her but gathering information on her.

I only hope that Diana realised – if not immediately then eventually – that his tall stories could not possibly be true. I understand why she wanted to do the interview: it was her chance finally to tell the truth about her marriage.

She knew she would lose the Queen’s support if she went ahead, but if Bashir had planted the seed in her mind that people at the highest levels were out to get her, she might have felt so alone she had nothing to lose.

Whatever the case, it is imperative that the BBC holds a fully independent inquiry, not another cover-up. My reputation, and those of Richard Aylard, and Patrick Jephson, must be publicly exonerated.

The BBC should hang their heads in shame. And as for Bashir, if Diana went to her death believing even a fragment of his self-serving lies, then I hope his conscience – should he have one – will be plagued for ever. 

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