He added: “The police did a huge investigation. They think that the painting’s in Moscow, with a gangster collector because people have…seen it.

“That’s what the BBC did to me, leading burglars to my French home, though I must admit I have no proof.”

The robbery was so professional that the thieves had put a tap on his telephone line and knew exactly when he would be out.

What is all the more painful is that the painting was not insured. It was worth about £8m. He assumed it was safe because only his closest friends knew that he owned it and he had good security: “The insurance was extremely high, so I was going to sell it or put it in a safety deposit.”

He added: “The painful memories have come flooding back in reading about what happened to Diana and how the BBC treated her, and the paranoia that she suffered afterwards – exactly what happened to me.”

A BBC spokesman said: “When people raise concerns of this kind about programmes, we of course look into them. This is a programme made nearly two decades ago and it is clear that recollections differ… If Mr Joule has concerns about the film, we welcome the opportunity to speak to him directly.”

A BBC source denied there was sufficient information in the film to enable a viewer to work out where Mr Joule lived, describing the house exterior as “not a long lingering shot”. They added that Joule had given the crew a tour of the house.

But Joule argues that the house is a “distinctly” Normandy style and he was known to have a home there.

Of the burglars, he said: “They were a highly professional bunch of crooks… Searching for details, they would certainly find it. No question about it… If they’re focussed on stealing a very expensive painting, they would pick up on any clues.”

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