Earl Spencer meets mother of murder victim
Diana’s brother Earl Spencer meets mother whose murdered daughter’s clothes were lost by disgraced BBC reporter Martin Bashir
- Princess Diana’s brother Earl Spencer recently met with Michelle Hadaway
- She was persuaded by Martin Bashir to hand over bloodied clothes worn by her murdered daughter Karen
- He promised to submit them to DNA testing but they were lost and not returned
- Since exposing Bashir, Earl Spencer has become formidable ally of Ms Hadaway
It was a deeply poignant meeting between two people who had separately been exploited by the shameful behaviour of disgraced BBC reporter Martin Bashir.
One was Princess Diana’s brother Earl Spencer, who was outrageously deceived by the journalist as part of a cynical plot to land an interview with his sister. The other was Michelle Hadaway, who was persuaded by Bashir to hand over bloodied clothes worn by her daughter Karen, one of two schoolgirls killed in the so-called Babes in the Wood murders.
The venue, Diana’s family home Althorp House, was where Bashir used forged documents to persuade Earl Spencer to help him.
After exposing Bashir’s lies and a BBC cover-up last year, Earl Spencer has become a formidable ally of Ms Hadaway. Bashir promised to subject Karen’s clothes to DNA tests in the hope of discovering clues about her killer – but they vanished and have never been returned.
It was a deeply poignant meeting between two people who had separately been exploited by the shameful behaviour of disgraced BBC reporter Martin Bashir. One was Princess Diana’s brother Earl Spencer (pictured), who was outrageously deceived by the journalist as part of a cynical plot to land an interview with his sister
Earl Spencer invited Ms Hadaway to Althorp as the BBC faced demands for another independent inquiry into its former reporter following an exposé by this newspaper last month. They met last Wednesday in the Sunderland Room on the ground floor of the 500-year-old stately home in Northamptonshire.
I was invited because, as a freelance journalist, I witnessed Bashir take Karen’s clothes in August 1991. I was stonewalled by the BBC when I tried to discover what he had done with them and was ignored for years after I blew the whistle. Last month, with Earl Spencer’s support, I submitted a 50-page dossier of documents detailing what BBC bosses knew about Bashir’s investigation into the murder case.
Earl Spencer listened intently as Ms Hadaway described her pain at the loss of her daughter’s clothes and treatment at the hands of the BBC. ‘I’ve had so many doors slammed in my face,’ she told him. ‘The hardest thing has been being on my own with this for 31 years. I have had to hide so much, from my husband, and my children, to spare them, and no one powerful has ever spoken up for us.’
The bodies of Karen and her friend Nicola Fellows, both aged nine, were found in woodland near their Brighton homes in October 1986. Their killer, Russell Bishop, was acquitted of their murder the following year after a botched prosecution. He was finally convicted of the appalling crimes in 2018.
The other was Michelle Hadaway (pictured), who was persuaded by Bashir to hand over bloodied clothes worn by her daughter Karen, one of two schoolgirls killed in the so-called Babes in the Wood murders
In 1991, Bashir persuaded Ms Hadaway to hand over the clothes as part of an investigation he was carrying out for the BBC programme Public Eye. After listening quietly to her story, Lord Spencer told her: ‘He must have seemed your knight in shining armour.’
‘Absolutely,’ she replied. ‘My husband was sick, I had a small baby and older children, I had to look after them all and keep fighting. I thought he was reputable, as the BBC was so big and powerful. I thought someone good had come along wanting to help me – so I trusted him. I was so vulnerable.’
The programme Bashir was working on was never broadcast and it does not appear as if the clothes were ever tested.
The family asked for the clothes to be returned in 2004 so they could be given to Sussex Police who were reviewing the case. The BBC said it made ‘extensive enquiries’ to find the clothes but the MoS was told by key journalists working alongside Bashir, and by the journalist’s agent, that they were not contacted. This has been denied by the BBC.
Earl Spencer invited Ms Hadaway to Althorp as the BBC faced demands for another independent inquiry into its former reporter following an exposé by this newspaper last month
The Corporation has now tasked former BBC executive Paul Smith with launching a fresh bid to find the clothes. But Ms Hadaway believes the search will be futile. ‘Where are they looking? To the north, to the south? They’re long gone,’ she said.
Ms Hadaway, 65, was accompanied by her daughter Lyndsey, whom she describes as her ‘rock’. Otis, Earl Spencer’s golden labrador, lay across Lyndsey’s feet throughout the meeting.
Ms Hadaway is incredulous that Bashir claims he doesn’t remember meeting her. ‘How can anyone not remember meeting the mother of a murdered child and taking her clothes?’ Bashir even signed a receipt for the clothes, which Mrs Hadaway still has, making his denials even more unbelievable.
‘He met me twice. The BBC even took me to their studios in White City in London. They sent a car for me, and showed me the studio where they said they’d film me. They got all the information out of me they wanted, told me about the tests they planned and primed me that the programme would be going out.’
Ms Hadaway believes Bashir should have been sacked for failing to return the clothes. She revealed that she told Bashir before he took the clothes that her family had been threatened in the years following her daughter’s death.
She said: ‘I was followed and we had anonymous calls, saying, “We’ve had your Karen, we’re coming back for Lyndsey”. ‘The caller wanted the clothes for Bishop’s defence campaign.’
Bashir deceived Earl Spencer by showing him two fake bank statements during a meeting at Althorp in August 1995. It was the opening salvo in a litany of lies deployed by the reporter to secure his interview with Diana later that year.
Ms Hadaway believes Bashir (pictured) should have been sacked for failing to return the clothes
The Metropolitan Police announced last month they would not launch a criminal investigation into Bashir’s Diana interview, despite a devastating report by former Supreme Court judge Lord Dyson.
‘The police say, “You have to prove someone suffered as a result”,’ Earl Spencer said, ‘and Diana and many others absolutely did.’
Earl Spencer is now challenging the police decision.
‘The police just hope it will all go away. But it won’t. I’ve been very clear to them on that point.’
Ms Hadaway is just as resolute. As the meeting ended, she said: ‘I told the BBC that I would get to the end of this – and I will.’
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