Prince Andrew claims to have “no recollection” of meeting Virginia Roberts Giuffre, the young woman whom he was pictured with his arm around in a notorious photograph, said to have been taken by Jeffrey Epstein at Ghislaine Maxwell’s London home.
Giuffre has accused Prince Andrew of having sex with her on three occasions when she was being trafficked by Epstein.
The comments raise the possibility that Andrew is trying to inject fresh credibility into a theory put about by his friends that the picture is fake.
Andrew made the comments in an interview with the BBC recorded on Thursday and due to be transmitted on Saturday night on BBC2 under the title Prince Andrew and The Epstein Scandal.
The BBC released an excerpt of the interview on Friday to build interest ahead of the blockbuster sit-down, which will see Andrew pleading his case over his decade-long connection to pedophile Epstein.
In the first clip released today, presenter Emily Maitlis details to Andrew how “one of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Roberts… has made allegations against you. 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?”
Andrew replies, “I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever.”
Maitlis asks, “You don’t remember meeting her?”
Andrew again replies, “No.”
The clip raises the possibility that Andrew, who it was recently reported has slept with over 1,000 women, may be intending to pursue a claim, apparently made by close friends on his behalf, that the picture of him and Roberts is fake.
The claim has been much derided, and the FBI has reportedly accepted that the photograph is genuine.
The second clip released today saw Maitlis confront Andrew about his frequent extended stays with Epstein, which continued even after Epstein had been convicted of soliciting a minor for prostitution.
On one of these stays, Andrew was photographed walking with Epstein in Central Park. The picture caused such an outcry that it ultimately led Andrew to lose his coveted role as a roving trade ambassador for the U.K.
In the second clip, Andrew says, “The problem was the fact that once he had been convicted… I stayed with him and that’s… that’s… that’s the bit that… that… that, as it were, 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.”
In advance of the interview, Sarah Ferguson, Andrew's ex-wife, went on Twitter on Friday praising her ex-husband. “It is so rare to meet people that are able to speak from their hearts with honesty+pure real truth, that remain steadfast and strong to their beliefs. Andrew is a true+real gentleman and is stoically steadfast to not only his duty but also his kindness + goodness.”
The Guardian reported Friday that “the interview was a result of six months of negotiations with the royal household, with an agreement that there would not be any advance vetting of the questions.”
The fact that Andrew, not exactly known for being the smartest cookie in the royal biscuit tin, has agreed to do this interview was the subject of disbelief among royal commentators today, especially when his involvement with Epstein had been largely bumped off royal news feeds by the admission by Harry of a rift with his brother William.
Doing an interview like this represents a seismic change of strategy by the prince and one that is likely to make mandarins at the palace deeply nervous.
Until now, Andrew has relied on issuing the same strongly worded statement denying there was any “impropriety” with Giuffre, the woman who claims she was abused by Andrew at the age of 17.
However, Andrew was clearly a close friend of Epstein: Sources have told The Daily Beast that Andrew was paraded as a guest of honor at parties that Epstein threw at his cavernous New York residence.
Another witness was quoted by the New Republic magazine saying they saw Andrew receiving a foot massage from two “well-dressed Russian ladies” in Epstein’s home.
Epstein was found dead in his New York cell three months ago. The death was ruled a suicide by the New York City medical examiner, but many conspiracy theorists suspect Epstein was murdered to protect an alleged network of powerful men to whom he provided women and girls for sex.
Epstein's brother, Mark, recently said he believed Epstein did not kill himself.
“I could see if he got a life sentence, I could then see him taking himself out,” Mark Epstein, 65, told the Miami Herald of his late older brother. “But he had a bail hearing coming up.”
Andrew’s friendship with Epstein’s former girlfriend and alleged “madam” Ghislaine Maxwell, is also likely to be explored by Maitlis.
Friends of Maxwell have told The Daily Beast that she was tasked with introducing young women to Andrew whom he might have a sexual interest in.
In an interview with 60 Minutes in Australia this week, Giuffre told Prince Andrew to “stop with the lame excuses” and pulled out the photograph of her with the Duke.
She said, “This photo has been verified as an original and has since been given to the FBI and they've never contested that it’s a fake.
“I know it’s real and he needs to stop with all of these lame excuses, we’re sick of hearing it.
“This is a real photo. That’s the very first time I met him.”
The Daily Beast has requested a comment from Giuffre on Prince Andrew's remarks to the BBC.