The BBC has apologised after the mother of a murdered schoolgirl said Martin Bashir borrowed some of her daughter’s clothes and did not return them.
Michelle Hadaway said the reporter, who used “deceitful behaviour” to secure his Panorama interview with Princess Diana in 1995, took the garments for DNA testing for BBC Two’s Public Eye programme 30 years ago.
Ms Hadaway’s nine-year-old daughter Karen, and her friend Nicola Fellows, were found sexually assaulted and strangled in a woodland den in Brighton in October 1986 in what became known as the Babes in the Wood murders.
Karen’s mother discovered the clothes were missing when she asked for them back, the Mail on Sunday reported.
They were needed to help police undertake a review of evidence in an attempt to convict chief suspect Russell Bishop.
The MoS said its own investigation had found the BBC “failed to properly search for (Karen’s) bloodied clothes that Bashir had lost”.
But the corporation said it was “incorrect” to suggest it did not contact people who “might have known where the clothing was”.
It added: “Records show that Nigel Chapman (Public Eye’s editor), and an individual who can be identified as Charlie Beckett (assistant producer) were contacted during the 2004 investigation.
“Martin Bashir was contacted via his agent, who told us that Martin was unable to assist with the whereabouts of the clothes. Eileen Fairweather had left the employment of Public Eye before the clothing went missing.”
Mr Bashir has previously said he does not remember if he lost the clothes or what happened to them.
The BBC said it is “extremely sorry for the distress this has caused Ms Hadaway” and “appalled that this clothing was lost after being obtained as part of an investigation for a programme”.
It added: “We deeply regret we have not been able to give her any answers about what happened.”
The corporation said it is “continuing to look into this matter following the Dyson Inquiry, and as part of that, we asked a former senior BBC executive to review what happened in this case, including the 2004 investigation, and see if anything was missed which could help us locate the clothing”.
“We will continue to follow up any new information we receive about the whereabouts of the clothing. We will of course discuss any of this matter with Ms Hadaway if and when she wishes to do so.”