The photograph of Prince Andrew with his hands around Virginia Roberts’ waist has long been seen as key to establishing the truth in this sordid saga.
Both sides view it as a key piece of evidence. To Miss Roberts, the March 2001 image proved beyond doubt that her claims of intimacy are true; others have suggested an equally dark secret which could prove the prince is telling the truth.
This is the photograph from 2001 which has dogged the Prince for years. But in the bombshell Newsnight interview, he deployed a salvo of objections to hint that it may have been faked – including his choice of outfit and the location of the picture inside a London property owned by Ghislaine Maxwell
The height of the Andrew, who is understood to be around 6ft tall, and Roberts, around 5ft 8 in, has been highly disputed. Experts have pointed out the practice of picture manipulation was in its infancy when the picture was taken
On the night it was taken, Miss Roberts , then 17, said she went on to have sex with Andrew after being brought to Britain by his billionaire friend and convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
She maintains it was snapped in society hostess Ghislaine Maxwell‘s central London mews house after a night out in Mayfair. However, the prince, who has always denied having sex with her, insisted that he had ‘no recollection’ of meeting her or posing for the photo.
He also echoed previously unnamed royal sources who have queried the photo’s veracity, even hinting that the hand around her waist may not be his. He suggested he would never have hugged anyone in public and raised questions about his own attire.
The Duke told interviewer Emily Maitlis: ‘I have absolutely no memory of that photograph ever being taken. 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.
Royal insiders say Andrew’s fingers are ‘much chubbier in real life’ while other pictures of his hands do not highlight any obvious discrepancies
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Emily Maitlis last night, he said he has ‘never seen Epstein with a camera in my life’. He added: ‘If the original was ever produced, then perhaps we might be able to solve it but I can’t’
‘So it’s very difficult to be able to prove it but I don’t remember that photograph ever being taken.’ He also stated: ‘I’ve never seen Epstein with a camera in my life.’
Miss Maitlis suggested his former friend had borrowed Miss Roberts’ camera, leaving the prince to respond: ‘Listen, I don’t remember. I don’t remember that photograph ever being taken.’
Pictured is 44 Kinnerton Street, the London home of Ghislaine Maxwell where the photo was said to have been taken. It appears to show Andrew and Roberts smiling on the first floor of the flat but the Prince claims he wasn’t there
The photo supposedly shows the first floor of the property, with the window appearing to match one at the front of the house. But the prince denied he had been on the first floor.
Miss Maitlis asked: ‘There’s a photo inside Ghislaine Maxwell’s house, Ghislaine herself in the background. Why would people not believe that you were there with her that night?’ He replied: ‘They might well wish to believe it but the photograph is taken upstairs and I don’t think I ever went upstairs… because the dining room and everything was on the ground floor… I’m at a loss to explain this particular photograph.
The Prince has questioned his outfit in the picture as he would only wear a ‘suit and tie’ in London, despite being photographed in the same attire leaving London’s Chinawhite nightclub (pictured)
‘I don’t remember going upstairs because that photograph was taken upstairs and I am not entirely convinced that… we can’t be certain as to whether or not that’s my hand on her whatever it is, side.’
The prince even questioned his own casual clothing in the photo. He said: ‘I don’t believe it’s a picture of me in London because when I would go out in London, I wear a suit and a tie.’
Instead he is dressed in dark trousers and a light blue shirt, with cufflinks adorning his sleeves. Other photos show this was his favoured look at the time and he was pictured in almost exactly the same clothing as he left London’s Chinawhite club a few months earlier.
In the Newsnight interview, he also argued he would not have placed his arm around the teenager, saying: ‘I am not one to, as it were, hug and public displays of affection are not something I do.’ But that claim also seems to be contradicted by a number of photos over the years.
Prince Andrew is asked if he could have had sex with ‘any young woman trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein in any of his residences’ and issues a rambling response: ‘If you’re a man it is a positive act to have sex with somebody’
When Miss Maitlis asked: ‘You think that photo has been faked? Andrew responded: ‘Nobody can prove whether or not that photograph has been doctored but I don’t recollect that photograph being taken. So that’s the best explanation I can give you and I’m afraid to say that I don’t believe that photograph was taken in the way that has been suggested.’
‘If the original was ever produced, then perhaps we might be able to solve it but I can’t.’ The picture was first published by The Mail on Sunday in 2011 after the newspaper found Miss Roberts living in a small bungalow in New South Wales. She is said to have given the original, along with 19 other images, to FBI investigators in 2011.
In recent months, Andrew’s friends have tried to discredit the photograph. A source told the London Evening Standard: ‘Look at his fingers in the photo. The duke has quite chubby fingers – they don’t look right and nor does the height of the duke and the girl.’
The Duke said he was ‘at a loss’ trying to explain the resurfaced photo as the picture was taken on the first floor of the west London property and he allegedly did not have a reason to go there. His claims that he would not put his arm around a teenager have been contradicted by a number of photos over the years
Roberts returns to the mansion where she was held captive and says ‘Prince Andrew should go to jail’ while pointing at the historic photo on 60 Minutes Australia, on November 7
However, while Andrew is said to be around 6ft tall, Virginia is understood to be around 5ft 8in – which is reflected in the picture. Other pictures of his hands do not highlight any obvious discrepancies. Experts have pointed out the practice of manipulating images was in its infancy when the picture was taken.
Miss Roberts’ lawyers have insisted the photograph is real and its authenticity never questioned by the FBI.