The BBC is under pressure over claims one of its journalists is too ill to respond to allegations of impropriety made by Princess Diana’s brother.
Earl Spencer alleged reporter Martin Bashir showed him fake bank statements to gain his trust and access to Diana prior to a bombshell interview in 1995.
The bank statements wrongly purported to show that two senior courtiers were being paid by security services for information on the late princess.
The BBC has apologised for the falsified documents but said Mr Bashir was unable to respond to Earl Spencer’s other allegations as he was suffering from coronavirus.
However, a photograph has since emerged of the 57-year-old taken during an alleged visit to a takeaway and wine shop.
The image, published in the Daily Mail, was reportedly taken on Friday near his north London home.
Responding to the image’s publication, the BBC said: "The BBC has made clear it will investigate the issues raised and that this will be independent. We will set out the terms of reference in due course.
“We will do everything possible to get to the bottom of this.
“Martin Bashir is signed off work by his doctors as he is currently recovering from quadruple heart bypass surgery and has significant complications from having contracted Covid-19 earlier in the year.”
Mr Bashir, who is still employed as the BBC’s religion editor, was accused of spinning a “web of deceit” to secure his interview with Diana.
In it, the late princess famously said “there were three of us in this marriage" when referring to Prince Charles’s relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles, sparking a crisis for the royal family.
Mr Spencer, who produced notes of a 1995 meeting with Mr Bashir, said that the reporter alleged Diana was under surveillance and that her bodyguard was plotting against her.
Royal aides were considering legal action over the allegations, it was reported.
The chairman of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Tory MP Julian Knight, said at the weekend the case was “deeply disturbing”.
He told Sky News: “This is a very complex and deeply disturbing tale and it is important for public confidence in BBC journalism that a thorough, urgent and independent investigation is carried out and my committee will be watching developments very closely indeed."
The BBC has maintained that the fake bank statements played no part in Diana’s decision to give the interview.