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Prince Andrew‘s formal legal response to allegations made by Virginia Roberts in her civil case against him has been described as ‘defiant.’ A more jaundiced assessment might characterise it as vague and sometimes baffling.
In his answers and ‘affirmative defences’, there are 41 straight denials and a further 40 assertions that the prince ‘lacks sufficient information’ to admit or deny other claims she makes.
Amid incredulity at some of the responses, legal experts questioned the wisdom of his insistence of a trial by jury which they suggested may be a bluff ‘to buy time’.
A court-set deadline required the prince to answer Roberts’ original complaint by Wednesday. A more detailed response may presumably follow.
But given the wealth of evidence already in the public domain concerning Andrew’s relationship with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell, a number of his statements will still cause puzzlement.
On two occasions the wording in his legal defence is ambiguous enough to suggest that he denies Maxwell was ever a ‘close friend’ or that she introduced him to Epstein.
Yet during his disastrous Newsnight interview in November 2019 he told Emily Maitlis: ‘I met (him) through his girlfriend in 1999 …and I’ve known her since she was at university in the UK.’ This was undoubtedly a reference to Maxwell.
In the same interview he admitted flying on Epstein’s planes and staying on his island. His legal responses to the Roberts suit, in which she claims she was forced to have sex with the prince on three occasions, are rather more circumspect.
A photograph of Prince Andrew with his arm around a 17-year-old Virginia Roberts which was allegedly taken at Maxwell’s house
While Buckingham Palace is declining to comment on the prince’s tactics as Andrew is fighting to clear his name as a ‘private citizen’ after being stripped of his royal privileges, aides are fearful of more damaging headlines just a week before the start of the Queen’s historic Platinum Jubilee.
In the US, lawyers said Andrew – who strenuously denies the claims of wrongdoing – was gambling on ‘an incredibly risky strategy’, but sources close to the prince insisted he was entitled to defend himself when accused of ‘such heinous crimes’.
So let’s examine some of the claims.
Prince Andrew ‘lacks sufficient information to admit or deny’ that the widely published photograph of himself, Miss Roberts and Maxwell ‘exists’.
One of the most famous – or notorious – snapshots in the world shows Andrew with his arm around the bare midriff of a 17-year-old Roberts.
It was allegedly taken in March 2001, on the first floor landing of Maxwell’s mews home in Belgravia. Roberts maintains it happened after a night out in central London.
This included dinner and dancing with a ‘sweaty’ Andrew at Tramp nightclub. She alleges he then had sex with her in Maxwell’s home. He denies that such an evening and assault took place. He has also said he had no recollection of meeting Roberts.
In the past Andrew has contested the authenticity of the picture. Where, then, is the original negative? Roberts has said variously that it was with the FBI, stored in a family home in Australia and ‘in a safe place’.
According to a Panorama documentary, legal papers reveal an ex-partner of Roberts told US officials he remembers being shown a copy of the picture – one of the most frequently viewed in the world – just weeks after it was taken.
Roberts also told the 2019 programme that a date on the back of the picture shows it was printed on March 13, 2001 – just two days after it was taken. She said: ‘It’s an authentic photo, I have given it to the FBI. There’s a date on the back of it from when it was printed.’
Andrew ‘lacks sufficient information to admit or deny’ he and Maxwell have been photographed at numerous social events together.
This is the most puzzling claim. There are numerous photographs in the public domain of the prince and Maxwell attending social events together.
Where does one start? The year 2000 is a good place. The evidence is that they spent much of it in each other’s company and in the public eye.
The party at Trump’s resort.
Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell pictured together at a wedding
On February 12, 2000, Andrew was photographed at an event at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. In one of the pictures the prince is laughing with Melania,Trump’s now wife, Jeffrey Epstein and financier Gwendolyn Beck, with whom he was said to have been smitten during a stay on Epstein’s private Little St James island the following year. In another picture Maxwell is in conversation with a woman standing next to Andrew, as Epstein, Trump and Melania look on.
The tete a tete New York lunch.
On April 20, 2000, Andrew and Maxwell lunched together at Nello’s restaurant on 62nd Street and Madison in New York. Witnesses reported that they ate lobster salad and held hands. Andrew paid the $130 bill. They left the restaurant separately but both were pictured in the street outside.
The society wedding.
On September 2, 2000, the prince attended the Wiltshire wedding of his ex-girlfriend Aurelia Cecil. He arrived at and left the church with a female companion and the pair drove away together. The woman’s name? Ghislaine Maxwell.
The Duke of York and Ghislaine Maxwell at a Halloween party in New York
The Halloween party cuddle.
On November 6, 2000 Andrew attended supermodel Heidi Klum’s Halloween-themed party at the Hudson Bar in New York.
The prince dressed down – he took off his tie – but his female companion got into the spirit, wearing a shocking blonde wig and a midriff baring top. She was pictured with her arm round Andrew’s shoulder as they watched the crowd. Her name? Ghislaine Maxwell, again.
The Sandringham shoot.
On December 7, 2000, Epstein and Maxwell flew into the UK on his private jet – landing at RAF Marham, the pilot log for Flight 1429 suggests.
Witnesses told the Mail that the couple spent a weekend as his guests on the Queen’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk. Epstein and Maxwell were taken on a pheasant shoot and were photographed walking in the grounds.
Andrew ‘lacks sufficient information to admit or deny’ he is named in flight logs flying with Epstein on his private plane from 1999 onwards.
It has been widely reported that a number of pilot flight logs are said to prove the Prince flew as a passenger on Epstein’s planes.
One such entry, for May 12, 2000, is said to show that Epstein’s Gulfstream II business jet flew from TEB (Teterboro Airport, New Jersey, 12 miles from Midtown Manhattan) to PBI (Palm Beach International Airport, the closest to Epstein’s Florida home).
Billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein pictured with his private jet
Epstein and his jet, which was dubbed the Lolita Express, were named in flying logs
According to the log, aboard the plane for Flight 1338 were JE (Epstein), GM (Maxwell), ET (Maxwell’s assistant), AP (thought to be Epstein’s personal chef) ‘Prince Andrew and Bodyguard’.
The latter was presumably the Prince’s Scotland Yard personal protection officer.
Prince Andrew, Sarah Ferguson ad Princess Eugenie pictured with Princess Beatrice at her 18th birthday party
Andrew ‘lacks sufficient information to admit or deny’ if he invited Epstein to his daughter Beatrice’s 18th birthday party in 2006, despite Epstein being charged with paedophile offences.
The prince and his family and their guests posed for photographs at their daughter’s fancy dress event that July even though Epstein’s house had already been raided by police (he was charged shortly after the party).
One of these portraits is the stuff of reputational nightmares.
It shows Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein (jailed in 2018 for sexual offences), Epstein (died in jail the following year as he awaited trial on sexual offences) and a masked woman. Her name? Once again, Ghislaine Maxwell.
Andrew ‘lacks sufficient information to admit or deny’ that he didn’t know Epstein was a registered sex offender during his visit to him in New York in 2010.
Again this is a puzzling contention, given what the Prince told Emily Maitlis in his car crash interview on BBC Newsnight in November 2019.
The Duke of York walks through New York’s Central Park with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein
She asked him then: ‘Why were you staying with a convicted sex offender.’ He said: ‘I 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… I felt that doing it on the telephone was the chicken’s way.’
So he did know that Epstein was a convicted sex offender when he stayed at the tycoon’s home in Manhattan in 2010. Perhaps it’s the word ‘registered’ that his legal team is picking on.
Prince Andrew is seen at paedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s home in New York
Andrew denies that he ‘became a frequent guest in Epstein’s various homes around the world including New York City.’
Yet in his Newsnight interview he told Emily Maitlis he had stayed at the Manhattan mansion of the then convicted sex offender in 2010 because ‘it was a convenient place to stay.’
A leaked email exchange between Ghislaine Maxwell and the Duke of York
Andrew ‘lacks sufficient information to admit or deny’ if he emailed Maxwell stating, ‘Let me know when we can talk. Got some specific questions to ask you about Virginia Roberts’,’ after Roberts publicly accused him of sexually abusing her in 2015.
According to a BBC Panorama programme one month after his Newsnight debacle, the prince sent a 5.50am email to Maxwell saying ‘Let me know when we can talk.
Got some specific questions to ask you about Virginia Roberts.’ Maxwell reportedly replied: ‘Have some info. Call me when you have a moment.’ The source of this leaked email is unclear.
Source: Daily Mail