Martin Bashir, the TV journalist accused of betraying Michael Jackson, is at the centre of a fresh row over allegations that he "blackmailed" the father of a runaway child prodigy to appear in one of his documentaries.
Farooq Yusof, whose daughter Sufiah ran away from Oxford University at the age of 16, last week told a confidential hearing of the broadcasting standards commission that Bashir had promised to give him information about his daughter in return for an interview for ITV’s Tonight With Trevor McDonald.
The BSC panel that heard evidence about Mr Yusof’s claim is due to reach its decision later this week, although both parties will have to agree to its verdict before any further action is taken.
One of the people who gave evidence to the BSC was Graham Baldwin from the charity Catalyst, which helps victims of cults. Mr Yusof contacted the charity when his daughter disappeared, fearing she might have become involved with a religious cult.
"Bashir blackmailed us. He clearly said he had very important information that he had got from his researchers and he wouldn’t give it to Mr Yusof unless he did the programme," Mr Baldwin told the Mail on Sunday.
"But there was no information. The way he behaved was outrageous," Mr Baldwin added.
News of the complaint comes as a further embarrassment to the journalist in a week when Jackson’s version of his interview with Bashir is to be shown in the UK.
The star has also complained to the BSC over Bashir’s recent interview, Living With Michael Jackson, which he claims "utterly betrayed" him.
Jackson’s lawyers said the programme contained "clear innuendo" that the singer was guilty of inappropriate behaviour with children.
He has retaliated by selling his own footage of the time he spent with Bashir – who was granted unprecedented access to the superstar’s Neverland ranch – to the Fox Network for £1.6m.
The Michael Jackson Interview: the Footage You Were Never Meant To See will be shown on Sky One at 9pm tonight.
It shows Bashir lavishing praise on Jackson, describing his ranch as "incredible" and "spiritual", and telling the singer that seeing him with his children almost made him weep because his interaction with them was "so natural, so loving, so caring".
A spokesman for Granada, which makes Tonight, said: "We have strongly contested the complaint and we stand by the programme that was broadcast."
However, he added that the company could not comment on specifics because all parties are bound to confidentiality until the BSC has reached its adjudication.