Diana’s former lover Hasnat Khan has broken his silence to expose how the ‘cunning’ Martin Bashir preyed on the princess.
In an unprecedented interview, Mr Khan – the shy surgeon with whom Diana was infatuated – lifted the lid on the breathtaking tactics Bashir deployed to land his infamous Panorama scoop.
And he revealed how – when the scandal over Bashir’s behaviour reached boiling point late last year – a close ally of the beleaguered BBC religion editor got in touch, begging for help.
Prince William, Princess Diana and Prince Harry are pictured in 1995. Hasnat Khan said the BBC reporter ‘filled her head with rubbish’ until Prince William, then a teenager, warned her: ‘Mummy, he’s not a good person’
Mr Khan came forward after the Mail exposed the underhand methods used by Bashir to trick Diana into giving her bombshell 1995 TV interview, which saw her declare: ‘There were three of us in this marriage.’
Her brother, Earl Spencer, claims Bashir spun a web of deceit, claiming senior royals and courtiers betrayed Diana to newspapers and MI5, in order to draw the vulnerable princess into his confidence.
The Mail’s revelations prompted the BBC to commission an inquiry, led by former Supreme Court judge Lord Dyson.
BBC Religious Affairs Editor Martin Bashir heads out to the shops to buy a bottle of Famous Grouse whisky in the afternoon near his Hampshire home
Mr Khan, the Pakistani-born heart surgeon dubbed ‘Mr Wonderful’ by Diana during their intense two-year relationship, was her boyfriend throughout the period in question. He told the Mail that Bashir ‘manipulated’ the princess, adding: ‘He was a cunning man.’ He also revealed that:
- Diana admitted she had a ‘mole’ codenamed Dr Jarman – who turned out to be Bashir;
- The reporter’s bogus claims included that Camilla Parker Bowles had flown to America for plastic surgery;
- Bashir peppered Mr Khan with intimate questions about marrying the princess;
- The surgeon warned Diana that Bashir was dangerous and she ‘should have nothing more to do with him’;
- Diana gave the explosive Panorama interview to force Prince Charles to divorce her;
- It was Prince William, then aged just 13, who finally convinced his mother to sever ties with Bashir.
Mr Khan, 62, now a consultant surgeon at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals in Essex, said he was contacted by a mutual acquaintance of his and Bashir’s several weeks ago, after the reporter’s behaviour hit the headlines in the Mail.
Mr Khan said: ‘He phoned me, and said he knew Martin Bashir, and that he was under a lot of stress. He said he was a decent man but that he was very depressed and that he had a favour to ask: would I talk to Bashir?
Mr Khan (left with Princess Diana’s former butler), 62, now a consultant surgeon at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals in Essex, said he was contacted by a mutual acquaintance of his and Bashir’s several weeks ago, after the reporter’s behaviour hit the headlines in the Mail
‘I think the idea was that I would say something about how Diana wanted to do the interview. I could not do that.’ Mr Khan’s romance with Diana began in 1995 – just a few weeks before the Panorama interview – and ran until the summer of 1997, ending shortly before the princess’s fatal car crash in August.
The couple met, he reveals, when the princess shouted at the Pakistani-born medic as he left work one day: ‘Oi, where are you going?’
Mr Khan said: ‘One of her most attractive qualities was her vulnerability. It was what endeared her to the public. I later realised that Martin picked on those vulnerabilities and exploited them. He was very persuasive with Diana. It was all about him being from the BBC, being respectable and very pious even. But he filled her head with rubbish, such as that stuff about the nanny Tiggy [Legge-Bourke] being pregnant with Charles’s child.’
The couple met, he reveals, when the princess shouted at the Pakistani-born medic as he left work one day: ‘Oi, where are you going?’. Pictured, Diana in Chicago
During her courtship with Mr Khan, Diana initially referred to Bashir as Dr Jarman – a secret name she gave for her so-called ‘mole’ due to fears her telephone line was being tapped.
Mr Khan said she told him there was ‘a secret listening station in Kent where they eavesdropped on prominent people’ and that ‘the brakes on her Audi had been tampered with’.
He said the ‘clever’ Bashir had made her distrust the people around her ‘with talk of bugs and phone-tapping’.
When Mr Khan and the princess met Bashir at a country pub, the surgeon said he was left astonished – and offended. ‘Almost from the word go, he started asking me the most direct personal questions about Diana and our relationship. Why didn’t we get married? When were we going to get married? That kind of thing,’ he said. ‘It was intimate stuff.’ The fact that the princess had recorded a TV interview was kept a closely guarded secret. Mr Khan was one of the few people Diana trusted with the information, but after watching it – alone, during a night shift at the hospital – he told her it was ‘terrible’ and a ‘big mistake’.
The princess said Charles had also conducted an interview, with Jonathan Dimbleby, about his infidelity – but Mr Khan told her: ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right’.
He says Diana appeared on Panorama because her philandering husband had got away with ‘whatever he wanted’ – but she needed to force a divorce in order to ‘date who she liked’. Lord Dyson is about a third of the way through his inquiry, expected to take six months in total. His spokesman this week denied the retired judge was delaying his investigation as a result of Scotland Yard’s announcement that it was assessing allegations of criminal conduct by Bashir.
A barrister acting for Alan Waller, Earl Spencer’s former head of security, has urged the Metropolitan Police to investigate claims that Bashir and a BBC graphics artist created forged bank statements to clinch their bombshell interview. The Met confirmed yesterday that officers were still assessing whether to launch an investigation.
Last night there was no response to requests for comment to the BBC, Lord Dyson’s inquiry, Martin Bashir or his agent.
The BBC has previously said that it is ‘determined to get to the truth of what happened’. The corporation has insisted that ‘it is vital that everyone with information shares that with Lord Dyson, so that he can investigate thoroughly and draw his conclusions having heard all the evidence’.
Hasnat Khan wields the knife: He was Princess Diana’s lover as she filmed her secret Panorama interview. Now, inflamed by the unfolding scandal, the heart surgeon gives his first interview in 12 years – and it is devastating
by Richard Kay, Editor at Large, for the Daily Mail
Hasnat Khan remembers the first time he met Martin Bashir as if it was yesterday. The Pakistan-born heart surgeon had been on operating duty at Harefield Hospital in Middlesex when a message came through on his radio-pager.
It was from Princess Diana, with whom he had begun a deep and loving relationship a few months earlier. She wanted him to meet someone special and she was driving the mystery person out from London that day.
Intrigued but still busy and on-call with his medical duties, Dr Khan arranged to meet them later that evening at the Breakspear Arms, a bar not far from the renowned heart and lung centre and where he and Diana had enjoyed a number of unlikely dates.
The man who walked into the pub that January evening almost exactly 25 years ago was Bashir, who thanks to his sensational Panorama interview with the Princess the previous November, was almost as famous as Diana.
To the instinctively cautious Dr Khan there was something unsettling about the confident television reporter who seemed so at home in the company of the Princess of Wales.
Diana, however, told him that she knew what she was doing — and what the outcome would be. ‘She said she knew how the Royal Family would react. I have to say she was right’. Pictured, Princess Diana’s interview with Martin Bashir
But it was the unfolding conversation that the cardiologist, who had trained under the world famous transplant surgeon Sir Magdi Yacoub, found so offensive.
‘Almost from the word go he started asking me the most direct personal questions about Diana and our relationship,’ Khan told me this week. ‘Why didn’t we get married, when were we going to get married? That kind of thing. It was intimate stuff.’
Bashir brought up the names of cricketer turned politician Imran Khan and the heiress Jemima Goldsmith, whose wedding Diana had attended the previous summer.
‘He seemed to be saying that their success as a Muslim and a western woman could be a role model for us. I started off being embarrassed — Diana and I had not known each other long and we had never discussed marriage. But then I got angry. It was impertinent of this man I didn’t know to speak like this to us.
The memory of an encounter a quarter of a century ago came flooding back to Khan (right), now a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals in Essex, when Bashir tried to contact him in recent weeks through an intermediary
‘I looked in vain at Diana thinking she’d say something but she didn’t. I wanted to tell him to shut up, that it was none of his business but felt I couldn’t. I didn’t say anything. Instead I got up and said I had to go back to work and walked out.’
When Diana rang him later that night he told her that he found Bashir uncomfortable — and dangerous. ‘I remember telling her I didn’t like him, didn’t trust him and that she should have nothing more to do with him.’
The memory of that encounter a quarter of a century ago came flooding back to Khan, now a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals in Essex, when Bashir tried to contact him in recent weeks through an intermediary.
The reporter ‘had a favour to ask’, Khan was told.
The request came out of the blue after the Daily Mail unearthed the scandal of how Bashir tricked Princess Diana into doing her 1995 BBC interview.
Following our reports, the Corporation asked retired Supreme Court judge Lord Dyson to begin a detailed investigation into claims from the Princess’s brother Earl Spencer that Bashir used forgery and deception to obtain his scoop.
In November I reported how he had presented Lord Spencer with fake bank statements purporting to show that a former employee had been selling secrets about his family to tabloid newspapers.
Through Spencer, Bashir reached Diana. And thanks to a remarkable dossier he has preserved ever since, Lord Spencer revealed the lies and preposterous claims peddled by the reporter at an astonishing meeting between Bashir and the Princess which he set up and attended.
The Princess’s brother is clear that there would have been no interview, nor the garland of awards for Martin Bashir that followed it, without what he described to me as this ‘web of deceit’.
Khan at a ball in London on November 1, 2005. He has shunned the limelight, ignored the at-times grotesque speculation about Princess Diana’s death and, crucially, rejected the financial rewards that he could so easily have made from writing about their love affair
So what about the man who had a ringside seat at the centre of this whole saga and has now chosen to speak of it for the first time?
Of all the men caught in the vortex of Diana’s life, none has acted with more dignity and discretion than Hasnat Khan.
He has shunned the limelight, ignored the at-times grotesque speculation about her death and, crucially, rejected the financial rewards that he could so easily have made from writing about their love affair.
And in the 23 years since the Princess’s death in Paris nothing much has changed. He remains the same gentle, unassuming figure that Diana fell in love with, dedicated to his work here in Britain, which he now regards as home, and the heart unit he has painstakingly built near his family roots in Jhelum, Pakistan, where he spends part of each year treating poor local people without charge.
He has steadfastly refused to engage in the never-ending Diana stories and he is not a man to speak of his feelings with indulgence, but when he does, his words resonate with a warmth and deep respect for the Princess that is undimmed by the passage of time.
Even though he has recently married for a second time, he looks back on that extraordinary two-year roller coaster of a romance with Diana that ended when she took up with Dodi Fayed, with nothing but affection.
Hasnat and I have been friends throughout this time and I have come to know when he has something important on his mind.
In 2007 I recall him telling me how he could not, in all countenance, accept William and Harry’s kind invitation to attend the memorial service on the tenth anniversary of their mother’s death which they had arranged, because the Duchess of Cornwall was due to be there.
In the event Camilla did not go but Hasnat, one of only a handful of the Princess’s friends invited, stayed away. He spoke to me, too, of the fountain established in Diana’s name in Hyde Park which he felt could not and did not do her justice.
So when he called the other day, I knew something must be troubling him. This, remember, was the man Diana called ‘Mr Wonderful’, drawn to his decency and integrity. What troubled him was his anger after all these years at how she had been exploited by the BBC and Bashir.
The 50th Anniversary Ve Day Celebrations Parade in Hyde Park. Charles Prince of Wales is pictured with Diana Princess of Wales and their sons Prince William and Prince Harry in 1995
But even though he firmly believes that she was inveigled into giving the interview, he also maintains that there was a strategy on her part.
Hasnat’s arrival in Diana’s life almost exactly coincided with that of Bashir. ‘We met on August 27, it was bank holiday Monday and she was visiting one of my patients,’ the surgeon recalled.
That patient was Joe Toffolo, who was having triple heart bypass surgery at the Royal Brompton Hospital under the supervision of Mr Khan.
Diana was a friend of Toffolo’s Irish-born wife Oonagh, a former nun who nursed the Duke of Windsor on his deathbed in Paris, and who gave the Princess acupuncture.
After that visit, Diana went to see Mr Toffolo almost every day until his discharge three weeks later. Often she bumped into the handsome doctor, whose dark good looks she had already compared to those of the actor Omar Sharif.
A friendship quickly grew. ‘One day I came out of the hospital and she was going in and she shouted at me, ‘Oi, where are you going?,’’ Hasnat told me when we met for a socially-distanced walk in East London this week.
‘I said I was going to my uncle’s house in Stratford-upon-Avon to collect some books and I blurted out, “Do you want to come?” She said yes and that was it really.
‘We drove up there, drove back and found this wonderful connection. She was very ordinary in many ways, a normal person with great warmth.
‘She was very good at judging people. When she met my patients and their families, she was always clued up and had a natural quality of empathy. In fact it was so instinctive I started calling her “the witch”! She loved that.’
It was three years since her separation from Prince Charles and although not yet divorced, Diana was struggling with new relationships. There had been controversy over some of her men friends, including the art dealer Oliver Hoare and England’s then rugby captain Will Carling. Both were married.
Some three weeks after that first meeting with Hasnat, Diana had been introduced to Bashir by her brother at a flat in Knightsbridge.
Almost immediately Khan noticed a change in the Princess. ‘She started telling me that she had got a “mole” who was giving her information. She called him “Dr Jarman”.’
It was three years since her separation from Prince Charles and although not yet divorced, Diana (pictured in 1996) was struggling with new relationships
This was the secret name Diana used for Bashir whenever they spoke on the phone because of her fears that her telephone lines were being tapped — a fear, of course, that Bashir encouraged.
Over the following weeks Hasnat was to become familiar with ‘Dr Jarman’s’ name. ‘They seemed to speak all the time,’ he said. ‘She told me how he said there was a secret listening station in Kent where they eavesdropped on prominent people and how certain words triggered recording equipment.
‘His implication was that she was one of these people being bugged.
‘One day she told me that the brakes on her Audi car had been tampered with and the next time I saw her she was in a BMW. I asked her where the Audi was and she said it had to go.’
It was around this time, September or October 1995 that Diana told him she’d had her apartment at Kensington Palace swept for bugs.
Hasnat Khan is scathing about Bashir’s ensnaring of the Princess. ‘One of her most attractive qualities was her vulnerability; it was what endeared her to the public. I later realised that Martin picked on those vulnerabilities and exploited them,’ he says.
‘She was not a paranoid person but all this talk of bugs and phone tapping was about getting her to a place where she distrusted things and people around her.’ Bashir, he added, ‘was a clever man’.
One day, he recalls, she was terribly excited because ‘Dr Jarman’ had told her that Camilla Parker Bowles — whom she later declared on Panorama was the third person in her ‘crowded’ marriage — had secretly flown to America for plastic surgery.
Then, in early November, the Princess let Khan in on another secret, an altogether more explosive one. ‘She told me she had given an interview. She didn’t tell me who to, but said that she had got the tapes of the recording and was storing them somewhere safe until the news was announced.’
As I revealed last year, the Princess kept a copy of her Panorama interview in a hat box in her Kensington Palace dressing room.
Khan recalls that his reaction was deadpan. ‘I asked her if she thought it was wise and she said it would affect a lot of people. At that time I didn’t feel I knew her well enough to give a more informed judgment of what she had done, but she did mention how the Prince of Wales had given a television interview to Jonathan Dimbleby a year earlier.
‘I remember saying, “two wrongs don’t make a right”.’
As I revealed last year, the Princess kept a copy of her Panorama interview in a hat box in her Kensington Palace dressing room. Pictured, Richard Kay (left) with Mr Khan
Diana, however, told him that she knew what she was doing — and what the outcome would be. ‘She said she knew how the Royal Family would react. I have to say she was right.
‘She told me that whatever she did, she always knew how the courtiers at Buckingham Palace would retaliate. She said she knew how the Duke of Edinburgh would react and the same applied to the Prince of Wales. The only person she didn’t mention was the Queen and I never once heard her utter a word of criticism of her.’
Their romance was in its early stages and Khan thought no more of the interview until the night of its broadcast, November 20.
The Princess was at a public engagement and he watched it alone during a hospital nightshift.
‘She called me as soon as it was finished and asked me what I thought. I felt it was a big mistake and I told her it was terrible but then added, “If you are on a mission, you have done the job”.’
He then asked her about Bashir, whom he realised was the shadowy ‘Dr Jarman’. ‘She said her brother had introduced them and said good things about him.’
Despite his reservations, Khan kept his counsel. Their romance, which remarkably had not yet leaked out, was soon to become public knowledge and the quietly-spoken hospital registrar’s life would be turned upside down.
Just like ‘Dr Jarman’ for Bashir, Diana had her own nom de plume for contacting Hasnat — she left messages for him to call ‘Dr Armani’. She loved the subterfuge, often using different accents to reach the doctor during his busy working day.
But as the frenzy over Panorama erupted, Khan remembers asking Diana what the royals would do.
‘She was absolutely clear; she said they will ask us (her and Charles) to get a divorce.’
This turned out to be true when the Queen wrote to the warring couple just before Christmas telling them the marriage had to end.
According to Hasnat, Diana’s thinking was clear. ‘She said she would never ask for a divorce, but that it was what she wanted.’
It was the only way, she told him, that she could possibly get any measure of freedom. ‘She complained bitterly that Charles was able to get away with whatever he wanted, could see Camilla and there was hardly a raised eyebrow.
‘But she couldn’t see anyone without there being a big fuss in the papers. She said that if she was divorced she could date who she liked. This was not about me and our relationship at all. Rather she said it was about the boys, that it was important what William and Harry thought about her.’
Reflecting on all those tumultuous events 25 years on has done nothing to diminish Mr Khan’s belief that Bashir ‘manipulated’ the Princess.
‘He was a cunning man, I am sure he did his homework,’ he says. ‘He started with Charles Spencer who wanted protection from the tabloids and so easily fell for all his lies that he was investigating the Press.
‘From the little I knew it was clear he was very persuasive with Diana. It was all about him being from the BBC, being respectable and very pious even.
‘But he filled her head with rubbish, such as that stuff about the nanny Tiggy (Legge-Bourke) being pregnant with Charles’s child.
‘Of course I am not naïve. I knew that there was a part of Diana that wanted to give an interview but my question is if Martin Bashir had not been there persuading her, would she ever have done it?’
Meanwhile after that meeting at the Breakspear pub, Diana stopped talking about ‘Dr Jarman’ and Bashir. ‘We had our relationship but we never talked much about her royal life, and there was something about Bashir I didn’t like. I told her to be careful of him.
‘I never saw him again and she no longer mentioned his name but I discovered that he was helping her with speeches and letters.’
But this was not the last time he was to hear of the reporter who is now the subject of a judge-led investigation into how he secured his ground-breaking interview.
A few weeks ago, as details of Bashir’s methods emerged, Mr Khan was contacted by an old medical friend.
‘He phoned me and said he knew Martin Bashir and that he was under a lot of stress. He said he was a decent man but that he was very depressed and that he had a favour to ask, would I talk to Bashir?
‘I think the idea was that I would say something about how Diana wanted to do the interview. I could not do that.
‘Anyway I said I didn’t know him and I never heard any more.’
This week, it emerged that Earl Spencer’s former head of security made an official police complaint over the faking of his bank statements by Bashir, who is on sick leave and reportedly too ill to respond to the allegations against him.
As for the Princess’s relationship with the reporter, that too came to a sudden end. One day — Hasnat can’t remember exactly when — she told him that she was no longer in contact with Bashir.
‘I asked why and she said because of William. If that is the case I could certainly believe it, because the boys were central to everything she did.’
He met William and Harry several times during the course of his two-year relationship with Diana — and was one of the close friends told about their plans for a statue of their mother due to be unveiled on what would have been her 60th birthday this July.
So what had William thought about Bashir? Hasnat paused and said: ‘He hated the Panorama interview and told her she had made a mistake, which had upset her. But he was very direct and said: “Mummy, he’s not a good person.”’