The Duke of York was humiliated by a disastrous TV interview last night about his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein – in which he showed no sympathy for the billionaire paedophile’s victims.
In an unprecedented public grilling of a senior Royal, Prince Andrew looked deeply uncomfortable as he faced a barrage of probing questions, offering evasive and sometimes contradictory responses. Some of the interrogation focused on the most intimate aspects of his private life.
But, watched by millions, it was his glaring failure to express a single note of regret over what happened to Epstein’s victims that provoked the most outrage. He also claimed it was because he was ‘too honourable’ that he decided to stay with Epstein after the financier’s release from jail.
In an unprecedented public grilling of a senior Royal, Prince Andrew looked deeply uncomfortable as he faced a barrage of probing questions on BBC Newsnight
Watched by millions, it was his glaring failure to express a single note of regret over what happened to Epstein’s victims that provoked the most outrage
Virginia Roberts (pictured) alleges she was coerced by paedophile US businessman Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the Duke, into having sex with Andrew on three occasions
Last night one of the US financier’s ‘sex slave’ victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre – who claims she was forced to have sex with Andrew three times between 1999 and 2002 – was said to be ‘furious’ over the interview.
A source close to the now mother-of-three told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The interview was totally lacking in empathy and he did not utter a word of remorse for any of Epstein’s multitude of victims. How do you think that makes them feel? It is telling that the Prince is so out of touch that he tries to make the interview all about him.’
During one breathtaking exchange with the BBC’s Emily Maitlis, the Queen’s second son was asked if he felt any sense of guilt or shame over his friendship with the US financier, jailed for procuring an under-age girl for prostitution.
To Maitlis’s obvious incredulity, he replied: ‘Do I regret that fact that he has quite obviously conducted himself in a manner unbecoming? Yes.’
The Newsnight presenter immediately challenged his use of the word ‘unbecoming’ to describe the actions of a child sex offender and the Duke apologised. Yet overall his tone was far from regretful. Astonishingly, he went out of his way to say of Epstein that the ‘opportunities that I was given to learn either by him or because of him were actually very useful’.
The Prince’s often bizarre responses were greeted with howls of horror, incredulity and mockery on social media.
Maitlis also asked the Duke if he would be willing to testify or give a statement to an FBI inquest into Epstein’s crimes under oath. He replies: ‘I will have to take all the legal advice that there was before I was to do that sort of thing. But if push came to shove and the legal advice was to do so, then I would be duty bound to do so.’
Andrew (left) also again rejects the claim by one of Epstein’s (right) victims, Virginia Roberts, that he had sex with her when she was 17
The infamous photograph of Prince Andrew smiling as he stands with his left arm around the waist of a young Virginia Roberts has dogged him for years
Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams said: ‘This must be the most bizarre royal interview ever given. He only regrets visiting Epstein to tell him he was breaking contact with him. He can’t see that he did anything wrong and admits to no wrongdoing. Who will believe him after this bizarre ramble? The question must be whether he will keep his more than 200 patronages and what royal engagements he will do in the future. He won’t recover from this.’
Last night, Ingrid Seward, Editor of Majesty Magazine, said: ‘It is disappointing that the Queen’s second son has put himself in a position to have to answer such questions. He has to take responsibility for the situation he has put himself in.’
Royal author Penny Junor added: ‘I think that this protestation of knowing nothing, seeing nothing, not remembering anything, defies belief. He is either not telling the truth or he is really rather extraordinarily stupid.
‘I’m sure he could help the FBI investigation into Epstein. I’m not suggesting for a second that Andrew is guilty of anything … but unless he really is incredibly stupid he must have noticed something going on – and could be helpful in the investigation.’
Another royal expert, Christopher Wilson, said: ‘He should have kept his trap shut. I think the long-term impact – and the one Prince Andrew should be looking at very closely – is what impact it will have on his mother and her reputation. She has wrapped a security blanket around him through all of the best intentions, but people will look at her and say there is 93-year-old woman who has lost her judgment.’
Ms Giuffre outlined her claims against Andrew in a world exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday in 2011. And it was these alleged encounters – fiercely and repeatedly denied by Andrew and ruled inadmissible by a US court in 2015 – that produced some of the most fierce questioning from Maitlis last night,
Asked if they had sex in 2001 at the London home of Ghislaine Mawell, then Epstein’s girlfriend, the Prince replied: ‘It didn’t happen.’ She went on to press him four more times on whether they had sex – or ‘any kind of sexual contact.’
Andrew replied: ‘I can absolutely categorically tell you that it never happened.’ Elsewhere he 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. You have to… take some sort of positive action and therefore if you try to forget it’s very difficult to try and forget a positive action and I do not remember anything.’
The Prince’s often bizarre responses were greeted with howls of horror, incredulity and mockery on social media
The Duke of York answered questions from Emily Maitlis, 49, during the hour-long show
Of Ms Giuffre’s claim that they had earlier danced together during a visit to Tramp nightclub in London, he said simply: ‘No.’ He was then questioned about the then 17-year-old’s recollection of how he had sweated profusely.
Andrew insisted he has ‘a peculiar medical condition which is that I don’t sweat or I didn’t sweat at the time’. This, he explained, was because he suffered ‘an overdose of adrenalin’ after being shot at during the 1982 Falklands conflict while serving aboard HMS Invincible. Experts said this explanation was plausible.
In any case, he insisted, he was ‘at home with the children’ on the night Miss Roberts alleged she was nightclubbing and later having sex with him.
Exploring this alibi, Maitliss pressed further and Andrew volunteered that he could remember taking his daughter Beatrice to a Pizza Express in Woking, Surrey, at between 4pm and 5pm that afternoon.
Maitlis asked why he would remember that so specifically and he replied: ‘Because going to Pizza Express in Woking is an unusual thing for me to do, a very unusual thing… I’ve only been to Woking a couple of times and I remember it weirdly distinctly.’
After repeatedly denying any sexual contact with Ms Giuffre – and saying he can’t recollect meeting her – he was asked if he thinks she is lying. His response was considered. Andrew will almost certainly have warned by lawyers not to be accusatory for fear of facing a possible defamation claim. ‘That’s a very difficult thing to answer because I’m not in a position to know what she’s trying to achieve,’ he said.
The Prince often came across as absurdly out of touch. In one exchange Ms Maitlis asked if he threw a birthday party for Ghislaine Maxwell at Sandringham
He replied: ‘No , it was a shooting weekend.’
Maitlis questioned: ‘A shooting weekend?’
Andrew added: ‘Just a straightforward, a straightforward shooting weekend.’
The interview, conducted at Buckingham Palace, aired on BBC2 last night in a Newsnight special. The palace did not ask for any questions to be submitted in advance, and no assurances were given.
Prince Andrew is pictured with Epstein in Central Park in New York in February 2011
The source close to Ms Giuffre said last night’s interview was in marked contrast to a statement released by Buckingham Palace in August after The Mail on Sunday revealed images from a video taken in 2010 showing Prince Andrew inside Epstein’s New York mansion. In one image Andrew is seen waving off a young woman while standing at the front door.
The statement said: ‘His Royal Highness deplores the exploitation of any human being and the suggestion he would condone, participate in or encourage any such behaviour is abhorrent.’
The source added: ‘Where is the sympathy this time? This interview is all about him. He’s worrying about himself. It’s shameful.’
Virginia Giuffre did not immediately comment with sources saying she was ‘taking her time to consult with her legal team’ before making a public statement.
But her lawyer Brad Edwards told this newspaper: ‘I was confused by his comment that being too honourable may have coloured his judgment. His self-serving statements and controlled interviews do absolutely nothing for anybody. If Prince Andrew wants to be honourable, do what honourable people really do and answer questions, under oath, from those who know the facts and have a real interest in learning the truth. If he is being truthful, then that process will serve him best as well.’
The 2010 New York visit also led to intensive questioning from Maitlis. At the time Epstein – who was found dead in his New York prison cell in August while awaiting trial for sex trafficking– was newly released from prison. ‘Why were you staying with a convicted sex offender?,’ asked Maitlis.
Andrew said he went there with ‘the sole purpose of saying to him that because he had been convicted it was inappropriate for us to be seen together’.
Andrew said he broke the news as they walked through Central Park, where they were pictured together, adding: ‘We decided that we would part company and I left. I think it was the next day.’ But as this newspaper has previously revealed, Andrew stayed with his paedophile friend for six days in total – a fact put to him by Maitlis.
Andrew, later added that the mansion was a ‘convenient’ place to stay in New York.
Now he says he recognises it was wrong ‘But at the time I felt it was the honourable and right thing to do and I admit fully that my judgement was probably coloured by my tendency to be too honourable, but that’s just the way it is.’
Since the 2010 visit to Manhattan, Miss Roberts has claimed that she was forced to have sex with the prince on three separate occasions, including an ‘orgy’ at Epstein’s home in the US Virgin Islands.