BBC to pay ‘substantial’ damages to William and Harry’s former nanny
The Duke of Cambridge’s former nanny has been awarded substantial damages by the BBC over ‘false and malicious’ allegations used to secure Martin Bashir’s 1995 Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.
Alexandra Pettifer, formerly known as Tiggy Legge-Bourke, appeared in the High Court in London for a public apology from the broadcaster over ‘fabricated’ allegations that she had an affair with the Prince of Wales while she was working as Charles’ personal assistant in 1995.
His lawyer Louise Prince told the court the allegations had caused “serious personal consequences for everyone involved”.
In addition to the allegation in the case, the court was told that Ms Legge-Bourke had been falsely accused of becoming pregnant with Charles’ baby and having an abortion.
Ms Prince said Ms Legge-Bourke had not known the source of the allegations for the past 25 years, but it was now likely the “false and malicious allegations arose as a result of and in the context of efforts from BBC Panorama to get an exclusive interview with Diana, Princess of Wales”.
The court was told the Dyson investigation, commissioned by the broadcaster, had “shed some light” on how the interview had been secured.
The lawyer said the ‘completely unfounded’ allegations ‘appeared to exploit prior false speculation in the media’ about Charles and Ms Legge-Bourke, whose duties at the time were to care for William and his brother Harry , the Duke of Sussex.
“After Diana, Princess of Wales became aware of the allegations in late 1995, she became angry with the claimant with no apparent justification,” she added.
Ms Prince said Ms Legge-Bourke “holds the BBC accountable for the serious impact the false and malicious allegations have had.
“If the BBC hadn’t been up to speed, the asylum seeker and her family could have escaped 25 years of lies, suspicion and upheaval.”
After the hearing, BBC chief executive Tim Davie said the broadcaster would “never show the program again” or license it to other broadcasters, apologizing to Ms Legge-Bourke, Charles, William and Harry for how Diana had been “deceived”.
At Thursday’s short hearing, Judge Mr Justice Nicklin heard that in September 1995, Earl Spencer – Diana’s brother – learned that Charles was in love with Ms Legge-Bourke and that they had been on holiday secrets together.
The court was also told that in October 1995 the BBC was at a ‘critical stage’ of negotiations with Diana over her appearance on BBC Panorama, at the same time she told her lawyer that Ms Legge-Bourke had an abortion.
Ms Prince continued: “In October 1995, Diana, Princess of Wales wrote allegations that she might be in an accident, so that HRH The Prince of Wales would marry the claimant.”
In December 1995, Diana publicly confronted Ms Legge-Bourke over the abortion allegation, before telling a senior member of the Royal Household that she had a letter from the hospital proving the abortion had taken place.
Ms Prince said: ‘As the allegation of an abortion was totally untrue, such a letter could only have been fabricated.’
She continued: “The applicant was extremely upset and confused by these events.
“She felt she had to prove to others that the allegations were completely false by revealing very sensitive matters, including private medical information.
“Unfortunately Diana, Princess of Wales could not be persuaded, even when compelling evidence was presented.”
The lawyer said the allegations have been repeated in the press for the past 25 years, although numerous reports cast doubt on them.
She continued: “Nevertheless, she and her family have until today continued to face suspicion and disbelief. A long shadow has been cast over relationships with those near and dear to her.
After the hearing, Ms Legge-Bourke said she was “disappointed” that legal action was needed.
She continued: ‘Sadly I am one of many whose lives have been scarred by the misleading way in which the BBC Panorama was made and the BBC’s subsequent failure to properly investigate the making of the programme. .
“The distress caused to the Royal Family is a source of great grief to me. I know firsthand how affected they were at the time and how the program and the false narrative it created haunted the family. in the years that followed.
“Especially because, even today, so much about the making of the program has yet to be adequately explained.”
Jonathan Scherbel-Ball, representing the BBC in court, said the broadcaster was “extremely sorry for the serious and prolonged harm to the claimant and the historical flaws in the investigation”.
He also said: ‘The BBC accepts that the allegations made against the claimant were totally unsubstantiated, should never have been made and that the BBC failed, at the time, to adequately investigate the serious concerns regarding the circumstances in which the BBC obtained the Panorama. interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.
“If this had been done, the BBC accepts that it may well have led to these misrepresentations being dealt with and corrected much sooner and may well have lessened the harm done to the applicant and her family for many years to come. .”
A spokesperson for the Duke of Cambridge declined to comment.