After Jeffrey Epstein had admitted in court in 2007 to procuring underage girls, Johanna Sjoberg told a Sunday newspaper of an alleged encounter with the Duke at the East 71st Street mansion at ‘Easter 2001’.
She had been asked by Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell to go to New York.
She recalled that she returned to the apartment after some ‘sightseeing’ and ‘Prince Andrew was there and a couple of other girls my age. Andrew was very charming . . . She (Ghislaine) came down with a present for him — a latex puppet of him from Spitting Image.’
She added: ‘We had a picture taken. Virginia, another girl there, sat on a chair and had the puppet on her lap. Andrew sat on another chair.
‘I sat on his lap — and he put his hand on my breast. Ghislaine put the puppet’s hand on Virginia’s breast. Then Andrew put his hand on mine. It was a great joke. Everybody laughed . . . Ghislaine . . . had a very dirty sense of humour.’
This was the Duke in the world of Jeffrey Epstein before the advent of #MeToo.
Johanna Sjoberg (pictured) told a Sunday newspaper of an alleged encounter with the Duke at the East 71st Street mansion at ‘Easter 2001’
Ms Sjoberg recalled this episode again in a deposition she gave under oath in 2016. Only fragments of this testimony have been released into the public domain, but the similarity is clear.
Ms Sjoberg said the Duke had thought the puppet ‘funny because it was him’.
Then ‘I just remember someone suggesting a photo and they told us to get on the couch. And so Virginia and Andrew sat on the couch and they put the puppet on her lap.
‘And so I sat on Andrew’s lap, I believe of my own volition, and they took the puppet’s hands and put it on Virginia’s breast and so Andrew put his on mine.’ It was all done in ‘a joking manner’.
According to her accounts, the Duke, while being inappropriately tactile to say the least, had not caused offence. She had sat on the lap of this famous stranger of her own volition. She thought him ‘charming’.
Ms Sjoberg added: ‘And so I sat on Andrew’s lap, I believe of my own volition, and they took the puppet’s hands and put it on Virginia’s breast and so Andrew put his on mine.’ It was all done in ‘a joking manner.’ Pictured: Prince Andrew and Virginia Roberts
‘THEY RETIRED TO THE DUNGEON’
But what took the alleged encounter into a whole new sphere were the subsequent testimonies of Virginia Roberts.
In interviews with a Sunday newspaper in 2011, her unpublished memoir written in the same year, a deposition under oath given in 2015 and various later TV interviews, she corroborated Ms Sjoberg’s ‘Spitting Image’ story (though on Panorama she says the puppet was put against Johanna’s breast rather than her own).
But she also went on to claim that after the puppet photograph interlude she and Andrew retired to a massage room — ‘the dungeon’ — where they had sex. She claims they had first had sex in London, a month before this.
Miss Roberts has previously said, ‘You are left with a foggy memory sometimes, you really are,’ and, ‘I might be wrong on dates absolutely and I might be wrong on places even, sometimes.’
Given the length of time that has elapsed since these alleged incidents, that is only natural.
Steve Wright, a 55-year-old puppeteer from Yorkshire, says he met the Duke at a Buckingham Palace reception in 2003. When he told Andrew what he did, the Duke allegedly said: ‘Oh my God, puppets! Spitting Image — do you know that my friend bought my Spitting Image puppet and you’ll never believe it, he played a trick on me’. Pictured: Prince Andrew’s Spitting Image puppet
Ms Sjoberg recalled that she returned to the apartment after some ‘sightseeing’ and ‘Prince Andrew (pictured with Donald Trump and Epstein in the background) was there and a couple of other girls my age. Andrew was very charming . . . She (Ghislaine) came down with a present for him — a latex puppet of him from Spitting Image
However in the deposition she said: ‘I had sex with Prince Andrew . . . in Epstein’s New York mansion in spring 2001. I was 17 at the time. Epstein called me down to his office. When I got there Epstein was there, along with Maxwell, Johanna Sjoberg and Andy. I was very surprised to see him again. Epstein and Maxwell were making lewd jokes about ‘Randy Andy’. ‘I had the impression that Andy had come there to see Epstein and to have sex with me. There was no apparent purpose for Andy to be there.’
She said Epstein paid her $400 for this service.
None of these accounts suggest a time of day for the alleged encounter. But another, unlikely, alleged independent eyewitness has just come forward to go some way to corroborating the puppet story.
Steve Wright, a 55-year-old puppeteer from Yorkshire, says he met the Duke at a Buckingham Palace reception in 2003. When he told Andrew what he did, the Duke allegedly said: ‘Oh my God, puppets! Spitting Image — do you know that my friend bought my Spitting Image puppet and you’ll never believe it, he played a trick on me’.
Wright explained: ‘The Prince told me he went to an apartment in New York and saw the ‘bloody thing’ sitting up on the sofa and that he ‘nearly had a bloody heart attack’ as he was there looking at himself.’
The Epstein mansion was only six minutes’ stroll via Fifth Avenue, from the consul general’s Residence.
It was not forbidden for the Duke to be at the Epstein mansion. Nor even noteworthy — at the time. Epstein was still a man of apparently spotless character. He was also a good friend and mentor of the Duke. Why wouldn’t the Duke pop over to see Epstein during his ‘Private Time’? Why otherwise would they contrive to miss each other given the opportunity?
When asked by Emily Maitlis on Newsnight about Ms Sjoberg’s account, the Duke even seemed to concede he might have visited.
Maitlis: ‘There was a witness there, Johanna Sjoberg, who says you did visit the house in that month.’
Duke: ‘I probably did . . . because of what I was doing, I was staying with the consul general which is further down the street on Fifth so I wasn’t . . . I wasn’t staying there. I may have visited but definitely didn’t, definitely, definitely no, no, no activity.’
Maitlis didn’t press the point further. Which was good for the Duke. Because within that stumbling reply we can reveal he had made at least one statement which was patently inaccurate.
When asked by Emily Maitlis on Newsnight (pictured with Andrew during the Newsnight interview) about Ms Sjoberg’s account, the Duke even seemed to concede he might have visited
BODYGUARD STAYED AT EPSTEIN’S TOO
The Duke’s schedule over the next 36 hours was packed with formal duties. That evening he was ‘escorted’ by his security detail and equerry from the Residence to a dinner at the five-star Mark Hotel, five hundred yards beyond the Epstein mansion along Fifth Avenue. The Duke’s host was Bill Phillips, head of Outward Bound International.
Afterwards he was escorted back to the Residence by Policeman A and stayed the night there. The Mail understands this has been confirmed by his security detail.
The following morning after breakfast the itinerary shows the Duke was to leave for ‘The School for the Physical City’, where he was scheduled to be met by Richard Stopol, director of the New York Outward Bound Schools.
There followed a two-hour tour of the facilities and further discussions with Mr Stopol, before the Duke left for lunch at the New York Times building, hosted by Arthur Sultzberger, chairman and publisher of the newspaper. The Duke then met another Outward Bound patron called Charlie Stetson before leaving for LaGuardia Airport. At 4.30pm, he and his full entourage departed for Boston.
He spent most of the next 24 hours at an Outward Bound facility on an island in the middle of Boston harbour. There are a number of photographs which support this. By 4.30pm on April 11 his formal duties with Outward Bound had been discharged.
According to sources, Sir Michael Hobbs and Captain Dilworth raised glasses of Guinness in one of the city’s many Irish pubs to toast the ‘great success’ — as they saw it — of the royal visit, before they caught an evening flight back to London.
Pictured are Prince Andrew with Jeffrey Epstein on a stroll together after leaving Epstein’s New York home
Such is hubris. Because the Duke wasn’t going home with them. In fact, he and his PPOs were already heading back to New York on Flight DL1841. The Duke paid for his own ticket this time because he was no longer ‘working’.
In fact, he was about to demonstrate just how close he was to Epstein. The Mail can reveal that despite his denial during the Newsnight interview, Andrew did spend the night of April 11 at the Epstein mansion.
In a fax sent from London shortly before his trip, a royal aide states only that ‘His Royal Highness will return to New York on the evening of 11th April after his visit to Boston. He will spend that evening at a private address in New York and will depart for Miami the following day’.
That ‘private address’ was 9, East 71st Street, sources close to the Duke have conceded. Epstein’s mansion. They say that HRH and Policeman A were alone there, apart from domestic staff. They insist that Epstein, Maxwell and Roberts had already left the city before the Duke arrived.
The Mail understands that Policeman A has confirmed this account and added that he stayed in his ‘usual’ guest bedroom on the fourth floor — an intriguing phrase in itself — with the Duke in a room nearby. (It is worth recalling that the Duke has admitted staying with Epstein in New York in 2010, the final time they met).
David Rodgers’ pilot log also suggests that Flight 1490 left Teterboro Airport for St Thomas in the American Virgin Islands, the nearest landing ground to Epstein’s private island, on April 11.
On board were Epstein, Maxwell, Banu, Virginia Roberts and Ms Sjoberg. The logbook does not say when the flight left New York.
RIDDLE OF THE MISSING MEMORIES
So are there other witnesses who can testify to the Duke’s whereabouts? The Mail has learned Captain Dilworth sent a polite letter to Bill Phillips, head of Outward Bound International, dated April 30, 2001, thanking him for his hospitality.
Mr Phillips died two years ago. But approached by the Mail this week his widow Barbara had no recollection of him mentioning any such royal visit: ‘I would have known if he had dined at The Mark, let alone with an English prince. He would have delighted in telling me as we regularly discussed his work and Outward Bound.
‘He met a lot of famous people and there are lots of photos of him with those people. But none with the Prince.’
While there is pictorial proof that the Prince attended Outward Bound events in Boston, Richard Stopol, who is the current CEO of Outward Bound New York and was due to have hosted the Duke in the city on that second morning, equally said he couldn’t remember Andrew visiting at Easter 2001.
Pictured is Prince Andrew with Emily Maitlis during a BBC Newsnight interview on November 16 last year
‘Neither I nor any other NYC Outward Bound Schools staff met with Prince Andrew or were even aware that he was visiting New York City,’ he said.
He then checked with the man who was principal of The School for the Physical City in 2001.
Mr Stopol reported: ‘He’s a friend and we speak regularly and I was intrigued. I thought it was my memory which was failing, but he doesn’t recall this visit either.’
More bizarrely still, Tom Harris, UK Consul General in 2001, can’t recall a visit by the Duke that Easter. Nor could two of his three deputy consuls. Louise Redmond, the New York Consulate General’s visits officer, is still in post.
It was almost 20 years ago. Memories are hazy. Though not as hazy as the Duke’s has been.
The Mail asked representatives of Andrew a series of questions about the allegations made by Miss Roberts. A spokesman for the Duke said: ‘It would not be appropriate to comment on any of these matters.’
However, the Mail understands that the Duke now recalls he stayed at the Epstein mansion that third night to ‘save taxpayers’ money’ — rather than stay at a hotel, while on his way to join the Duchess and their two daughters for a family holiday in the Bahamas.
The several hundreds of pounds ‘saved’ pales in comparison to the hundreds of thousands so far paid in legal and consultancy fees and the reputational catastrophe to him and the Royal Family that his relationship with Epstein has caused.