Tonight Prince Andrew opens up about his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in a ‘no holds barred’ interview at Buckingham Palace.
The Duke of York has been grilled about his controversial friendship with the disgraced financier in an interview with Emily Maitlis on BBC’s Newsnight programme on Saturday night.
Epstein, 66, a convicted sex offender was found dead in a New York jail cell in August, while awaiting federal trial for sex trafficking.
The Duke claimed that it was in fact Epstein’s girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, who ‘was the key element in this’, as she was invited to Buckingham Palace in 2000 and that the financier was a ‘plus one to some extent’.
Despite being photographed together in New York and staying at his home, the Duke told the journalist that it would be ‘a considerable stretch’ to say he and Jeffrey Epstein were ‘very, very close’ friends.
But he told the BBC that he called off his friendship with Epstein in 2010 as he didn’t think it was ‘appropriate’ ‘because of what has happened’, following Epstein’s conviction in 2008.
The businessman was imprisoned for 18 months for unlawfully paying a teenage girl for sex.
Virginia Roberts – now named Virginia Giuffre – claimed she was forced to have sex with the prince three times between 2001 and 2002.
Ms Giuffre said she was trafficked when she was 17 add was forced into sexual encounters with the Duke in London, New York and on a private Caribbean island owned by Epstein.
The Duke claims he could not have had sex with her because he had taken his daughter to Pizza Express in Woking on the alleged date.
‘On that particular day, that we now understand is the date which is the 10th of March, I was at home,’ the duke said.
‘I was with the children and I’d taken Beatrice to a Pizza Express in Woking for a party at I suppose, sort of, four or five in the afternoon.
‘And then because the duchess [of York] was away, we have a simple rule in the family that when one is away, the other one is there.’
A photograph of the pair has been widely shared in the press inside what is said to be the house of British socialite Ms Maxwell in Belgravia, London.
But Andrew told the BBC: ‘I have simply no recollection of the photograph ever being taken. I don’t remember ever going upstairs in the house’.
Ms Maitlis pressed: ‘Your arm is round her waist’.
The prince said he wasn’t ‘entirely convinced’ that his hand is around Ms Giuffre’s waist in the photo but admitted ‘that is what I’d describe as me in the photograph’.
Ms Maitlis pressed: ‘Just to clarify, you think that photo has been faked?’
He replied: ‘Nobody can prove that photo has been doctored… I don’t believe that photograph has been taken in the way that has been suggested’.
He said he was at a ‘loss to explain’ how the image came to be and if the ‘original was to ever be produced’ he could clarify.
More to follow…