UK's Prince Andrew denies having sex with Epstein accuser in sensational TV interviewPTI | London | Updated: 17-11-2019 06:05 IST | Created: 17-11-2019 05:38 IST
London, Nov 17 (AFP) Britain's Prince Andrew has "categorically" denied having sex with an alleged teen victim of disgraced US financier Jeffrey Epstein, who claims she was forced to sleep with the royal, in an extraordinary interview broadcast on UK television on Saturday. In an unprecedented hour-long conversation with the BBC's Newsnight programme, Andrew insisted he had "no recollection" of ever having met his accuser, Virginia Roberts.
The prince also conceded his continued association with Epstein after he was convicted of soliciting prostitution had let the royal family down -- but that he did not believe it had damaged the reputation of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. "I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened," Andrew told the BBC's Emily Maitlis, on the allegations he had sex with Roberts, now Giuffre, on three occasions.
"I've said consistently and frequently that we never had any sort of sexual contact whatever. "I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever," he added.
Andrew, 59 -- eighth in line to the throne -- has been heavily criticized over his links to multimillionaire Epstein, who was found dead in a New York jail in August. A coroner ruled that he committed suicide by hanging while awaiting trial on federal charges he trafficked girls as young as 14 for sex.
Epstein had 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. Nonetheless, Andrew, who hosted him at Windsor Castle and remained in contact immediately following his release, is adamant it has not tarnished Britain's head of state.
"I don't believe it's been damaging to the Queen at all, it has to me," he said, noting "the wider family couldn't have been more supportive". "It has been, what I would describe as a constant sore in the family," the father-of-two added of the impact on his immediate family.
Andrew said he felt compelled to speak out now. "It's almost a mental health issue to some extent for me in the sense that it's been nagging at my mind for a great many years."
The BBC interview, filmed at Buckingham Palace on Thursday, is the first time the prince has answered questions on his relationship with Epstein. In 2015, he used a public appearance at Davos in Switzerland to deny the claims. The royal, who repeatedly insisted he was "not close" to the disgraced financier, discussed a photograph showing him with his arm around then 17-year-old Roberts, now Giuffre, with Epstein's friend Ghislaine Maxwell in the background.
Andrew cast doubt on the picture's veracity, which he described as "a photograph of a photograph of a photograph". "I don't believe that photograph was taken in the way that has been suggested," he said, claiming he had never been in the upstairs area of Maxwell's London flat where it was taken.
"Nobody can prove whether or not that photograph has been doctored but I don't recollect that photograph ever being taken." Andrew also faced questions over staying with Epstein at his Manhattan townhouse shortly after his release from prison. He claimed it was "a convenient place to stay" and that he did so to end their friends face-to-face.
"I have gone through this in my mind so many times. At the end of the day, with the 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 honorable and right thing to do." Andrew went on to concede it was "not something that was becoming of a member of the royal family".
"We try and uphold the highest standards and practices and I let the side down, simple as that," he said. Andrew, who was captured on video during the 2010 stay waving goodbye to a woman leaving Epstein's property, described the property as "like a railway station" with people coming and going.
He also said he was "absolutely sure" he had not received a foot massage from a young Russian woman as one witness had reported. Over the years Epstein, 66, hobnobbed with politicians, socialites, and celebrities, including Donald Trump before he was president and Bill Clinton.
After his death, Giuffre, who says she was abused by Epstein for years and farmed out to his wealthy friends including Andrew, said: "the reckoning must not end, it must continue". She has alleged she was forced to have sex with the prince three times -- in London in 2001 when she was 17, in New York and on Epstein's private island in the Caribbean -- which Andrew consistently denied throughout the interview.
But the allegations were struck from the record by a US judge in 2015, who said the "lurid details" were not needed to decide a civil case concerning Epstein. "He knows exactly what he's done and I hope he comes clean about it," she told reporters after a US hearing on August 27.
But Andrew claimed he was "at home with the children" on the March 2001 night Giuffre alleges they had sex, after earlier taking his daughter Princess Beatrice to a pizza restaurant near London. Sarah Ferguson, Andrew's ex-wife and the mother of his two daughters, defended the embattled royal ahead of Saturday's interview broadcast.
"Andrew is a true (and) real gentleman and is stoically steadfast to not only his duty but also his kindness," she wrote on Twitter.