Epstein, an accomplished networker, reveled in his new award, his “number one trophy,” as a former associate put it. The Duke has become a regular visitor to Epstein’s many homes.
“He had the most extraordinary ability to bring extraordinary people together,” the duke would later tell the BBC, without irony.
Ms Giuffre later claimed Epstein ‘debriefed’ her after she was forced to have sex with her friends, providing her with ‘intimate and potentially embarrassing information’ he may have about them.
For Prince Andrew, who relished the company of the super-rich, the free travel and networking opportunities provided by Epstein were irresistible. Epstein helped pay off the Duchess of York’s debts as she sought to avoid bankruptcy and opened doors for Andrew, introducing him to her contacts.
In May 2006, a warrant was issued for Epstein’s arrest after allegations involving underage girls first came to light, but Epstein appeared three months later at the 18th birthday party of Princess Beatrice at Windsor Castle, with the Duke apparently unaware of his friend’s legal situation.
On June 30, 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to “felony, solicitation of prostitution and procuring a person under the age of 18 for prostitution”. Sentenced to 18 months in prison and one year of house arrest, he was registered as a sex offender.
‘Prince Andy and the Pedo’
Newspaper reports of the Duke’s friendship with Epstein alarmed the palace, but it wasn’t until 2011, when News of the World published a photo of the Duke walking with Epstein in New York’s Central Park, that the crisis has become a real crisis. .
This gave rise to the title “Prince Andy & The Paedo” and led to the government dropping him as a traveling trade ambassador.
“You or I would spot someone like Epstein and his ways and run a mile,” a former royal aide said at the time.
“But Andrew just doesn’t see it. He considers himself above all else. Maybe he doesn’t care. He is the worst combination of arrogance and stupidity. He seems to think that the respect people have for the institution is respect for him.”
A week after Epstein’s photograph was published, another bombshell arrived; the unknown Virginia Roberts Giuffre sold her story to the Mail on Sunday, alleging she was doctored by Epstein in London to meet Prince Andrew, along with a picture of the duke with his arm around her waist.
The place of this mysterious meeting of 2001? Ghislaine Maxwell’s London home.
The first clue to her allegations about Prince Andrew came in an anonymous civil lawsuit brought against Epstein in 2009, in which she alleged she was sexually exploited by her “adult male peers, including royalty”. The case was settled out of court for $500,000.
Two years later, in her interview with the Mail on Sunday, Ms Giuffre refrained from alleging that she had been forced to sleep with the Duke in London in March 2001.
They went out to dinner, then to the Tramp nightclub before returning to Maxwell’s.
“We all went upstairs and I asked Jeffrey to take a picture of me with the prince. I wanted something to show my mom,” she said.
“Ghislaine and Jeffrey left us after that, and later Andrew left.”
An explosive allegation comes to light
The bombshell claim that she was repeatedly forced to have sex with Prince Andrew first came to light in January 2015, in legal documents filed with a Florida court.
“Jane Doe #3 was forced to have sex with this prince when she was underage in three separate geographical locations: in London (in Ghislaine Maxwell’s apartment), in New York and on the private island of Epstein in the US Virgin Islands (in an orgy with many other underage girls),” the documents state.
“Epstein asked Jane Doe #3 that she should give the prince everything he asked for and asked Jane Doe #3 to report to him on the details of the sexual abuse.”
Buckingham Palace has been forced to issue its first denial, stating that any suggestion that the Duke was involved in irregularities with minors is categorically false.
The queen, naturally, would have been horrified.
Royal sources have also denied the claim – made in court documents – that when Epstein was arrested the duke lobbied on his behalf to avoid prosecution and get a lesser sentence.
As it happens, a federal judge ruled in April 2015 that Ms Giuffre could not join the joint criminal prosecution and her allegations against the Duke were called “immaterial and irrelevant” to the case.
Epstein was found dead in a New York jail cell in August 2019 – awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges – but prosecutors have promised to continue to investigate the “conspiracy” of child sex trafficking victims, and said that their attention would now turn to Epstein’s living associates. .
The Duke decided it was time to step up and in November that year sat down to be interviewed by Emily Maitlis for a BBC Newsnight special, below. It was a disaster.