Prince Andrew is tonight speaking publicly for the first time in a ‘no holds barred’ interview about his relationship with billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein – revealing that he ‘trusted’ him and he never saw anything suspicious.
A BBC Newsnight interview sees the Duke of York questioned about his links to the disgraced financier who was found dead earlier this year in a prison cell while being held on sex trafficking charges.
Andrew, 59, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II and eighth in line to the throne, has been heavily criticised over his links to multimillionaire Epstein, who died in custody in the US in August.
A photograph apparently showing Andrew with his arm around then 17-year-old Roberts, now Giuffre, and with Epstein’s friend Ghislaine Maxwell standing in the background, has been widely published. Supporters of Andrew, however, have disputed its authenticity.
Speaking during the interview, he defended spending four days with Epstein after his release from jail in 2010 for soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution.
He said: ‘I went there with the sole purpose of saying to him that because he had been convicted, it was inappropriate for us to be seen together.
‘And I had a number of people counsel me in both directions, either to go and see him or not to go and see him and I took the judgement call that because this was serious and I felt that doing it over the telephone was the chicken’s way of doing it.’
Prince Andrew tonight told the BBC that when Epstein was a guest at Windsor Castle and at Sandringham in 2000 there was ‘no indication’ of wrongdoing
The Duke of York , speaking for the first time about his links to Jeffrey Epstein in an interview with BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis
Andrew (left) also again rejects the claim by one of Epstein’s (right) victims, Virginia Roberts, that he had sex with her when she was 17
Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to procuring a girl under the age of 18 for prostitution and served 13 months in a US prison before being released on probation.
He was arrested in July on new federal charges that he trafficked girls as young as 14 for sex, but was found dead in New York’s high-security Metropolitan Correctional Center on August 10 as he awaited trial.
Asked why he first met Epstein, Andrew said the appeal of Epstein was that ‘he had the most extraordinary ability to bringextraordinary people together’.
He said: ‘I mean I don’t go into a friendship looking for the wrong thing, if you understand what I mean.
‘I’m an engaging person, I want to be able to engage, I want to find out, I want to learn.
‘You have to remember that I was transitioning out of the Navy at the time and in the transition I wanted to find out more about what was going on because in the Navy it’s a pretty isolated business because you’re out at sea the whole time and I was going to become the special representative for international trade and investment.’
In extracts released before the interview aired this evening, the Duke of York said he recognises it was wrong and now regrets going to stay with Epstein in New York after the financier’s release from prison on child sex offences.
Referring to the Queen and the Royal Family, he admitted he ‘let the side down’.
The Duke also said he does not remember meeting Virginia Roberts, the woman who claimed she had sex with him when she was 17.
He told the BBC’s Emily Maitlis: ‘It was a convenient place to stay. I mean I’ve gone through this in my mind so many times. At the end of the day, with a benefit of all the hindsight that one can have, it was definitely the wrong thing to do.
‘But at the time I felt it was the honourable and right thing to do and I admit fully that my judgement was probably coloured by my tendency to be too honourable but that’s just the way it is.’
The infamous photograph of Prince Andrew smiling as he stands with his left arm around the waist of a young Virginia Roberts has dogged him for years
Prince Andrew is pictured with Epstein in Central Park in New York in February 2011
Virginia Roberts (pictured) alleges she was coerced by paedophile US businessman Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the Duke, into having sex with Andrew on three occasions
The claim came in a further extract from the interview which will be aired in full on BBC 2 tonight.
Andrew also said: ‘The problem was the fact that once he had been convicted I stayed with him.
‘That’s the bit I kick myself for on a daily basis because it was not something that was becoming of a member of the Royal Family and we try and uphold the highest standards and practices and I let the side down, simple as that.’
During the exchange, Andrew again rejects the claim by one of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Roberts, that he had sex with her when she was 17.
The prince says he does not even remember meeting Miss Roberts, despite the existence of a photograph showing him with his arm around the teenager’s bare waist alongside Epstein’s alleged ‘madam’ Ghislaine Maxwell.
‘She says she met you in 2001, she says she dined with you, danced with you at Tramp nightclub in London.
‘She went on to have sex with you in a house in Belgravia belonging to Ghislaine Maxwell, your friend. Your response?’ asks Miss Maitlis.
‘I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever,’ Andrew replies.
‘You don’t remember meeting her?’ the interviewer asks.
‘No,’ Andrew firmly states.
Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell pictured together in New York in 2005
Prince Andrew has previously denied being aware of any of Epstein’s illegal activities. He is pictured above in 2010 answering the door of Epstein’s New York mansion
The full interview, which was conducted at Buckingham Palace, was shown on BBC 2 at 9pm tonight in a Newsnight special: Prince Andrew & The Epstein Scandal.
According to royal sources, the programme makes for uncomfortable viewing at times, but, they say, is a ‘no holds barred’ discussion of the Epstein case.
A friend of Prince Andrew told the Daily Mail’s Richard Kay: ‘In a way, he is saying ‘judge me’.
‘Everything else had failed, he had no alternative.’
Insiders have also said that the Duke felt he had no choice but to speak out after being left ‘paralysed’ by his inability to defend his reputation.
Jeffrey Epstein was ‘found hanging in his jail cell using a paper bed sheet’ – authorities say it was suicide but his brother claims: ‘He didn’t kill himself’
The cell Epstein would have been held in have ‘paper level sheets’, a steel frame bed you cannot move, no light fixtures and no bars
Jeffrey Epstein was found ‘unresponsive’ at around 6.30am in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center on August 10, 2019 – a month after his arrest.
Prison staff were unable to revive him. He was then rushed to the infirmary inside the jail.
From there, he was placed in an ambulance and taken to New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead.
Since Epstein’s suicide, there has been widespread speculation as to how he managed to kill himself after an earlier failed attempt to take his own life weeks earlier.
Prison procedure dictates that an inmate goes through a screening process to determine if they are at risk of harming or killing themselves.
Critics, including his brother, have suggested he was ‘bumped off’.
Mark Epstein says he has seen no evidence to support the New York City Medical Examiner’s conclusion that his brother committed suicide.
He added: ‘Jeffrey knew a lot of stuff about a lot of people’.
One close aide told The Daily Telegraph that the scandal ‘turns over every day in his head’.
The aide added: ‘It was certainly the hardest thing he has ever done. For any of us to talk about this stuff no matter who you are, it would be difficult. It takes a huge amount of courage.’
Filmed on Thursday, the Mail understands that, over 45 minutes, the Queen’s son was ‘machine-gunned’ with questions about everything from his family to his sex life in excruciating detail.
The palace did not ask for any questions to be submitted in advance, and no assurances were given. One of those present claimed the Queen’s normally rather pompous and garrulous son was surprisingly ‘humble and candid’.
‘Maitlis doesn’t pull her punches and [people] were wincing slightly at times but he didn’t shy away from answering a single question,’ said one.
It is highly unusual for a member of the Royal Family to speak about something so personal and controversial in a one-on-one interview. Only the late Diana, Princess of Wales, and Prince Charles, both speaking about their failed marriage, have done so. Both programmes were considered disastrous for the monarchy.
Andrew – long believed to be the Queen’s favourite son – informed his mother about the interview in advance and was, apparently, given her blessing.
A source close to the prince said: ‘He wouldn’t do anything without discussing it with her majesty first.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman added: ‘The Queen is aware of the interview.’
It is the first time the prince has been publicly grilled about his friendship with the American sex abuser who was found dead in his New York prison cell in August while awaiting trial for sex-trafficking.
He has been dogged by the scandal since 2010, when he was photographed visiting the disgraced Wall Street money man in New York following Epstein’s release from jail following a conviction for prostituting minors.
He lost his job as a roving UK trade ambassador as a result of the outcry.
Since then the prince has been forced to deny claims by Epstein’s teenage ‘sex slave’ Miss Roberts that she was flown to London on the billionaire’s jet, the ‘Lolita Express’, for sex with the prince.
She claims Miss Maxwell told her: ‘I want you to do for him what you do for Epstein.’
Miss Roberts, now a 35-year-old mother, alleges that it was one of three occasions she was forced to have sex with the prince, which also included an ‘orgy’ at Epstein’s home in the US Virgin Islands. In the face of the prince’s denials she has said ‘he knows the truth and I know the truth’ and recently said he deserves to be sent to prison.
Buckingham Palace has always called the allegations ‘false and without any foundation’, saying ‘any suggestion of impropriety with under-age minors was categorically untrue’.
A view of Jeffrey Epstein’s stone mansion on Little St. James Island (pictured above) – where Andrew was accused of taking part in an orgy in 2015 court documents
FBI agents were seen raiding Jeffrey Epstein’s US Virgin Island Little St James in August – it earned the nickname ‘paedo island’
Miss Maxwell has always denied being involved in a sex-trafficking network run by Epstein. This week’s bombshell interview took place in the grand south drawing room of the palace.
‘It’s quite raw and it’s emotional,’ a source said, ‘But he doesn’t shy away from answering anything – and I mean anything – and hopes this honesty will enable him to draw a line under things once and for all.’
Privately, palace officials admit that Andrew’s decision to allow himself to be questioned on television is a huge gamble and ‘may all go horribly wrong’.
But one insisted: ‘There’s two narratives about the duke. The first that he is some sort of horrible, seedy person, the second – from those who actually know him – that he is decent, honourable, kind and is continually being crucified for mistakes he has already held his hands up to. He has honestly, straightforwardly addressed some difficult questions and hopefully that authenticity will allow people to see the real narrative.’
It is understood that Andrew is emphatic in his denials when he is asked by Maitlis whether he had sex with Miss Roberts.
The prince will also claim that he visited Epstein in the States in 2010 only to tell him that he could no longer have any contact with him because he felt this was the ‘honourable’ thing to do.
A member of Miss Roberts’ legal team, Jack Scarola, said he would like the prince to submit to an interview under oath instead of giving statements to the media that carry ‘little weight’. He said there was an FBI investigation into those involved in facilitating Epstein’s abuse and Andrew ‘would be a key witness’.
How Duke of York’s annual meetings with Epstein including after he was sent to jail caused Prince Andrew decades of trouble
Here is a timeline of the duke’s relationship with Epstein.
Andrew first meets Epstein, reportedly introduced through his friendship with Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell.
Andrew welcomes Epstein to the Queen’s private Scottish retreat in Aberdeenshire. Andrew later says he sees Epstein ‘infrequently’, adding ‘probably no more than only once or twice a year’.
Andrew and Ms Maxwell are seen on holiday with Epstein at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida.
Epstein and Ms Maxwell attend a party at Windsor Castle hosted by the Queen to mark Andrew’s 40th birthday, the Princess Royal’s 50th, the Queen Mother’s 100th and Princess Margaret’s 70th.
Virginia Roberts claims to have had sex with Andrew ‘three times, including one orgy’, with the first encounter allegedly taking place in Ms Maxwell’s London townhouse. Ms Roberts claims to have had sex with Andrew on two more occasions, at Epstein’s New York home and at an ‘orgy’ on his private island in the Caribbean.
Epstein admits prostituting minors and is sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Epstein is released from jail. Andrew is photographed with the disgraced Epstein in New York’s Central Park.
Footage emerges years later, reportedly shot on December 6 2010, showing him inside Epstein’s Manhattan mansion, from where he is seen looking out from a large door of the property waving a woman goodbye after Epstein leaves to get into a chauffeur-driven car.
The duke quits his role as UK trade envoy after the fallout from the Central Park photos.
Buckingham Palace denies Andrew has committed any impropriety after he is named in US court documents related to Epstein. A woman, later named in reports as Ms Roberts, alleges in papers filed in Florida that she was forced to have sex with Andrew when she was 17, which is under the age of consent in the state.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Andrew, in his first public engagement since he was embroiled in the allegations, responds, saying: ‘Firstly I think I must, and want, for the record, to refer to the events that have taken place in the last few weeks.
‘I just wish to reiterate, and to reaffirm, the statements that have already been made on my behalf by Buckingham Palace.’
In April the claims against Andrew are struck from US civil court records following a federal judge’s ruling.
Newly released legal documents show that Johanna Sjoberg, another alleged Epstein victim, claimed Andrew touched her breast while sitting on a couch inside the US billionaire’s Manhattan apartment in 2001.
Buckingham Palace said the allegations are ‘categorically untrue’.
Epstein is found dead in his jail cell on August 10, having killed himself after being charged with sex trafficking.
Later that month a pilot on Epstein’s private jet claims Andrew was a passenger on past flights with the financier and Ms Roberts.
The Sun newspaper reported that David Rodgers said in a testimony released in August that Epstein, Andrew and the-then 17-year-old travelled to the US Virgin Islands on April 11 2001.
Buckingham Palace describes the evidence statement as having ‘a number of inconsistencies’ and said that Andrew was on a different continent in some cases.
Following Epstein’s death, a statement from the palace says that Andrew is ‘appalled by the recent reports of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged crimes’.
Breaking his silence on the issue for the first time since 2015, Andrew then releases a statement on August 24 saying: ‘At no stage during the limited time I spent with him (Epstein) did I see, witness or suspect any behaviour of the sort that subsequently led to his arrest and conviction.’