Prince Andrew spent nearly a week at Jeffrey Epstein’s New York mansion two years after he was convicted for having sex with a child.
According to an investigation by The Mail on Sunday, the Duke of York’s attempts to downplay his longterm friendship with the child sex offender contradicts evidence suggesting he knew of Epstein’s lust for children.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Prince Andrew insisted that he never suspected Jeffrey Epstein of being a pedophile when he was in contact with him.
“During the time I knew him, I saw him infrequently and probably no more than only once or twice a year,” the 59-year-old prince said.
“I have stayed in a number of his residences. At no stage during the limited time I spent with him did I see, witness or suspect any behaviour of the sort that subsequently led to his arrest and conviction.”
However, new evidence shows that the Duke stayed with Epstein over a period of six days in 2010 – two years after Epstein was convicted of having sex with a child.
Dailymail.co.uk reports: It prompted first a statement from Buckingham Palace and yesterday another from the Duke himself in which he desperately tried to draw a line under the affair. The Duke admitted he and Epstein could have potentially met up to 20 times but that ‘at no stage during the limited time I spent with him did I see, witness or suspect any behaviour of the sort that subsequently led to his arrest and conviction’.
Epstein also threw a party at his home on December 2, 2010, for the Duke, who was last seen at the property five days later. Last night, Buckingham Palace declined to discuss details of his visit.
However, some commentators said that far from putting a lid on the scandal, the statement actually raised more questions than it answered. Others said it did not go far enough.
Peter Garsden, president of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, said: ‘While he deplores Epstein’s behaviour, I do not think for a minute that anybody will believe he is totally ignorant of what was going on. I can’t believe that.
‘Prince Andrew ought to offer himself for interview by the authorities in America rather than put out carefully worded statements.’
It is understood that the Queen was ‘made aware’ of her second son’s statement but her advisers were not involved in drafting it.
‘The Duke insisted on writing it himself,’ said a source.
The Prince is currently on holiday in Spain with his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, who was said by a source to be wholly supportive of his decision to ‘come clean’.
Since Epstein’s arrest on sex trafficking charges last month, the Duke has been trying to distance himself from his old friend, declaring himself ‘appalled’ by his ‘alleged crimes’. In yesterday’s statement, he said he was ‘eager to clarify the facts’ around his ‘association or friendship’ with the financier.
He said it was a ‘mistake’ to meet Epstein after he left prison in 2010. ‘I can only reiterate my regret that I was mistaken to think that what I thought I knew of him was evidently not the real person, given what we now know.’
The Duke admitted staying at ‘a number of [Epstein’s] residences’ but did not specify which. Buckingham Palace also declined to elaborate. Epstein owned properties in New York, New Mexico, Paris, Florida and the Virgin Islands.
The Duke said his friend’s suicide left ‘many unanswered questions’, adding that he had ‘tremendous sympathy’ for all those affected by the paedophile’s behaviour. ‘I acknowledge and sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure.’
Last night, Ingrid Seward, Editor-in-Chief of Majesty Magazine, suggested that Andrew’s ex-wife had urged him to make a statement.
‘Fergie has a big influence over him and does try very hard to help him,’ she said. ‘She is very loyal and protective and would have been right there with him.
‘I assume he decided that there was so much flak coming his way that only a personal statement would suffice.
‘Of course, if it was a politician, he would have to resign immediately. But Andrew isn’t a politician – he is a member of the Royal Family and he can’t resign, so he is limited to apologising.’ Royal author Penny Junor said: ‘For him to hide away and say how appalled he was by the allegations didn’t quite cover it.
‘I find it hard to believe, however, that if he did stay in any of these residences – albeit only once and twice a year – that he had no idea about Jeffrey Epstein’s behaviour.’
The Duke and Duchess are staying in Spain where he was last week seen playing golf. It is understood they also attended the 50th birthday party of Celine Charloux, a female polo champion, at her sprawling Finca La Capilla estate
A source said: ‘Sarah was very friendly and talked to everyone, even staff. Andrew sat in the corner chatting to friends and did not go and speak to the workers like Sarah did.’ Ms Charloux said the party had been ‘amazing’, but declined to discuss her Royal guests.
After arriving at Malaga Airport by private jet earlier this month, the Yorks are understood to have stayed at a villa in an exclusive residential area of Sotogrande.