Jamie Doward – The Guardian Nov 17, 2019
The Duke of York claimed on Saturday night that he could not have had sex with a teenage girl in the London home of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell because he was at home after attending a children’s party at Pizza Express in Woking.
Prince Andrew gave the startling explanation in a bombshell interview with Emily Maitlis for BBC’s Newsnight in which he was grilled about his relationship with the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, who has been exposed as a paedophile.
In a sometimes rambling and contradictory account of their friendship, which drew accusations of arrogance from viewers, the prince insisted he had not had sex with any women trafficked by Epstein in any of his properties. He confirmed that he had flown on Epstein’s now notorious jet, nicknamed the Lolita Express, and stayed on his private island and at his home in Palm Beach, as well as at his New York mansion.
“If you’re a man it is a positive act to have sex with somebody,” the prince explained. “You have to … take some sort of positive action and so therefore if you try to forget it’s very difficult to try and forget a positive action and I do not remember anything.”
Referring to Epstein, who took his own life in his prison cell in August while facing charges of abusing dozens of underage girls, the prince said: “Do I regret the fact that he has quite obviously conducted himself in a manner unbecoming? Yes.”
Asked if he had sex with Virginia Giuffre, formerly known as Virginia Roberts, when she was 17, the prince categorically denied it ever happened.
Roberts has said that they partied at Tramp nightclub in London on 10 March 2001, before going back to Maxwell’s Belgravia house where she claims she had sex with Andrew.
The prince said: “I was with the children and I’d taken Beatrice to a Pizza Express in Woking for a party at I suppose four or five in the afternoon. And then because the duchess [Sarah Ferguson] was away, we have a simple rule in the family that when one is away the other is there.”
A photograph of the prince with his arm around Roberts’s waist has been widely circulated, but the prince repeatedly said in his Newsnight interview he had “no recollection of that photograph ever being taken”. He said the picture appeared to have been taken upstairs in Maxwell’s house, somewhere “I don’t think I ever went”. He suggested that, as a member of the royal family, he was “not one to, as it were, hug, and public displays of affection are not something that I do.” Photographs of the prince in embraces with various women swiftly emerged on Twitter.
On Saturday Giuffre retweeted several disparaging tweets about the prince including one that read: “Prince Andrew’s shocking interview was an attempt to save his reputation – but it just raised more questions.”
He explained that the reason why he hadn’t noticed young girls at Epstein’s house was that, as a member of the royal family, he was used to “members of staff walking around all the time” and so hadn’t interacted in a meaningful way with anyone he considered to be staff. Yet earlier he said that there had been “absolutely no indication” of anything untoward, and claimed his connection with the NSPCC meant “I knew what the things were to look for but I never saw them”.
He confirmed that Epstein had been a guest at Windsor and Sandringham and that he attended a dinner celebrating the financier’s release from prison. An arrest warrant was issued for Epstein in May 2006, for sexual assault of a minor. The prince confirmed that he invited Epstein to Princess Beatrice’s 18th birthday the following July and was unaware that the warrant had been issued.
In 2010, the prince was photographed walking with Epstein in New York’s Central Park – two years after Epstein’s first conviction for soliciting a minor for prostitution. When it was pointed out during the interview that he was staying at the house of a “convicted sex offender”, he said: “It was a convenient place to stay… At the end of the day, with the benefit of all the hindsight 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 judgment was probably coloured by my tendency to be too honourable but that is just the way it is.”
The prince said he went to the US to tell Epstein they could no longer see each other, as “doing it over the telephone was the chicken’s way”. Of claims that witnesses saw young girls entering Epstein’s mansion, he said: “His house, I described it … almost as a railway station … there were people coming in and out… all the time.”
He appeared to be open to giving a statement under oath: “If push came to shove and the legal advice was to do so, then I would be duty bound to do so.”
Before the broadcast, Gloria Allred, a lawyer acting for a number of Epstein’s victims, said: “Rather than just going on television he, I think, would be well served to just say I’m willing to take the oath and appear at a deposition.”
The prince said that his association with the financier had hurt his family and his daughters, saying “it has been a constant sore in the family”.