Virginia Roberts Giuffre appears to have lost the original of the famous photograph showing her standing with Prince Andrew, and Andrew’s legal team say her inability to produce the original bolsters his argument that there is doubt around the authenticity of the image.
“The picture is not in Virginia’s possession,” a source with excellent connections to Giuffre told The Daily Beast.
The picture, which famously shows Giuffre as a smiling 17-year-old, with Andrew’s arm slung around her bare midriff, went missing from her care at some point between 2011 and 2016. So far, the picture has earned Giuffre in excess of $160,000 in media fees, and has been examined as potential evidence against Jeffrey Epstein by the FBI.
Now, according to i news, Andrew’s legal team has asked for access to the original picture, so its authenticity can be evaluated by experts.
However, no one on Giuffre’s legal team knows where it is or, indeed, has ever seen the original of the photograph, which Andrew has long alleged is not authentic, The Daily Beast can reveal.
One well-placed insider on Giuffre’s side told The Daily Beast they didn’t even know if the original of the picture “still existed.”
This critical piece of evidence is missing after being haphazardly stuffed into one of several storage boxes and shipped from Colorado to Sydney when Giuffre emigrated to Australia, at some point between 2011 and 2016.
Andrew’s camp has now seized on the fact that the artifact is apparently lost, arguing that without the hard copy original, there is no way of knowing if the image we are all familiar with, and that has done so much to condemn Andrew in the court of public opinion, has been manipulated.
Andrew has always said he has no recollection of ever meeting Giuffre and strenuously denies her claims they had sex.
He has strongly suggested the picture has been altered, and his legal team told The Daily Beast that, having questions about the picture’s authenticity, they sought the original from Giuffre’s side but were not given it.
A source familiar with Andrew’s thinking and legal strategy recently told The Daily Beast that Andrew considered the photograph of Andrew and Giuffre “irrelevant” unless and until the original was produced.
Melissa Lerner, Andrew’s attorney, told The Daily Beast that the provenance of the photo was important as it had played a key role in “legitimizing” Giuffre’s story and “putting her together in the same place with Andrew and Maxwell.”
Lerner added that the photo has helped draw attention away from “inconsistencies” in Giuffre’s account. Asked if she really believed the photo was fake, Lerner said: “There are concerns about its authenticity. The legal team requested the original from Giuffre’s attorneys in November 2021, and it was not provided to them.”
The story of the loss of the picture was told by Giuffre in a 2016 deposition taken as part of her successful libel action against Ghislaine Maxwell. The sworn testimony was only unsealed in 2020.
She said that in 2011, she gave the picture to the FBI. It is thought this was as part of their investigations into Epstein, and the photo had come to their attention as a result of its publication by the Mail on Sunday. The FBI copied it and handed back the original the same year, Giuffre said in her testimony.
The FBI declined to confirm to The Daily Beast if they had been passed the photograph, if they had handed it back or if they thought it was genuine.
When attorney Laura Menninger asked her, in the course of that deposition, where the original was, Giuffre replied: “I probably still have it. It’s not in my possession right now.”
Menninger pressed her and Giuffre told her the original photo was “probably in some storage boxes” in Sydney.
Asked if it was accurate that from 2011 (when the FBI gave the picture back) until the unspecified date she “left Colorado” the original was in her personal possession, Giuffre replied, “Yes.”
“What other documents related to this case are in those storage boxes in Australia?” Menninger asked.
Giuffre replied: “Documents related to this case… I don’t know. I really can’t tell you. I mean there’s seven boxes full of Nerf guns, my kids’ toys, photos. I don’t know what other documents would be in there.”
Odd as it appears, Giuffre seemed to be saying she took no special care of the original photo despite the fact that it was clearly of interest to the FBI, and as she also confirmed in her testimony, sales of which had made her at least $164,000.
How Giuffre must wish she could find that original picture in those shipping boxes now. Even somewhat dog-eared and creased, it would kill stone dead Andrew’s claim never to have met her.
Instead Giuffre’s camp admits the awkward truth is that the photo is effectively lost.
Their court action is seeking to use instead a reproduction of the widely disseminated copy of the photo first published by the Mail on Sunday. This “copy” is in actuality a photo of the original photo, taken by a freelance New Zealand photojournalist in 2011. “Copying” a photograph by taking a photo of it is a standard news gathering technique to obtain an image without requiring the owner to relinquish the original.
The photograph was in the news again recently after renewed fakery allegations were made by Andrew’s ex-girlfriend Lady Victoria Hervey, who alleged on Instagram that the picture was faked using an “Irish body double”.
Hervey exclusively told The Daily Beast that she “fully supported” Andrew, whom she said she hasn’t seen in more than 10 years, adding, “I always thought that photo looked fake and spoke about that originally on Piers Morgan but got shut down.”
Asked what she made of Giuffre’s inability to produce the original, she added: “Of course there was never a photo. This was just a digital manipulation as I put on my insta story.”
Of her allegation that an “Irish body double” was used to make the picture she clarified her allegation, saying, “They put in this Irish guy that one of the girls was dating. They used his body and stuck Andrew’s head on.”
Hervey’s allegations may seem wild to many, but the inability of Giuffre to produce the original print, which she said was taken on her “little yellow Kodak camera” and developed when she got back to America after the trip to London, feeds into such narratives.
Andrew has consistently denied the photograph is genuine. Although he has not out and out called it a fake, he has long sought to cast doubt on its authenticity.
For example he told BBC Newsnight: “From the investigations that we’ve done, you can’t prove whether or not that photograph is faked or not because it is a photograph of a photograph of a photograph… Nobody can prove whether or not that photograph has been doctored, but I don’t recollect that photograph ever being taken.”
It is true, as Andrew suggested, that the image we have all become familiar with over the years is a photo of a photo, taken by a New Zealand photojournalist named Michael Thomas for the Mail on Sunday.
The paper, as previously noted, paid $160,000 for an interview with Giuffre—backed up by the picture.
Thomas told the BBC documentary Panorama, “It wasn’t like she pulled the photo of Prince Andrew out, it was just in amongst the rest of them. They were just typical teenage snaps. There’s no way that photo is fake.”
Thomas, in a brief text exchange with The Daily Beast, declined an interview and said: “I haven’t anything to add. At the end of the day, I just copied a photo.”
A key player in Giuffre’s camp attempted to play down the significance of the fact the original was lost, saying that oftentimes the originals of photographs were lost and only survived as copies.
Asked if it was odd that Giuffre had not kept track of the original copy of such an important photo, especially one that had been given to the FBI, the source said: “Remember at the time that she was being interviewed by the FBI she was not suing anybody. She was not getting legal advice. She has now been through 6 or 7 years of litigation and has lawyers advising her and I’m sure she would behave differently, but then she was just a young girl.”
Virginia Roberts Giuffre is 38 years old, so in 2011 she would have been 27.
The source added that they did not think the failure to produce an original of the photograph would affect the admissibility of the photo as evidence and said they thought it would not be “productive” for Andrew to challenge the authenticity of the image, adding, “That would destroy their credibility. Even Andrew in that BBC interview did not say it was fake.”
The Giuffre source insisted that while the photograph is important in building Giuffre’s case against Andrew, it is not critical, arguing the fakery allegations have actually served to focus minds on Andrew’s “I never met her” defense.
The source said: “The photo does not show them having sex. But it shows they were together. It shows they met. The more he fights about that photograph, the more he underscores the fact that the real credibility issue for him now is whether he ever met her. That’s a losing battle for him.”
In a similar vein, Giuffre’s team believe they may yet score a knockout blow via the testimony of Robert Olney, Andrew’s former consigliere who, it is understood, oversaw many of his travel arrangements and was frequently by Andrew’s side in the years when he was Britain’s trade envoy.
Olney is likely to be asked to submit to a deposition by the British authorities, a request that would be hard to dodge. If he confirms that Andrew ever met Giuffre that could be just as fatal to Andrew’s case as the miraculous production of the battered original photograph, given that Andrew has tied his fortunes to sustaining a blanket denial of ever meeting her, as opposed to denying ever having sex with her or knowing that she was being trafficked.
Asked if Giuffre’s side was likely to be be troubled by the fact that the evidence from the deposition shows that the photo is now essentially lost, another source insisted it did not change anything, saying the “view remained the same” and that an inability to produce the original copy of the photograph was unlikely to significantly impact the case.
The source added there was “a reason [her lawyer] David Boies is not worried” about not having the picture as their case does not rest on it.
The source did not respond to further questions asking what efforts had been made to find the photo or the storage boxes in which it is apparently secreted.
One independent legal expert not affiliated with the case, Rachel Fiset, a senior partner at law firm Zweiback, Fiset & Coleman told The Daily Beast, “If the jury determines the photograph is fake, Giuffre will lose her credibility and Prince Andrew will win the case. If the jury determines that the photograph is genuine and believes that Prince Andrew is lying to them about it, he will take a very serious hit to his credibility—and it will make them wonder what else he is ‘lying’ about.”
In her recent Instagram post, Lady Victoria Hervey highlighted that Giuffre appears to be wearing exactly the same set of clothes in the photo with Andrew as she wore in a photo of her at a party to celebrate Naomi Campbell's birthday.
Asked if she considered this a legitimate reason to query the authenticity of the photo, Lerner said: “People can wear whatever clothes they like, but in her accounts of her trip to London in 2001, Giuffre has described going shopping and getting new clothing for her night out with a prince. She has also described buying new clothing to wear to Ms. Campbell’s birthday party in France. And it is certainly a distinct outfit.”
The simple fact is that the stakes are extraordinarily high for both sides. But the absence of the definitive original photograph could just nudge the case a little Andrew’s way.