LONDON – Buckingham Palace said Prince Andrew is “appalled” over the Jeffrey Epstein sex abuse claims, following the publication of images of the Duke of York at Epstein’s New York home in 2010.
The palace statement came hours after the Mail on Sunday published footage of Andrew at Epstein’s Manhattan residence in which he is seen looking out from a large door and waving a cheerful goodbye to a young woman.
“The Duke of York has been appalled by the recent reports of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged crimes,” read the statement emailed to The Washington Post on Monday. “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 video footage was reportedly taken in December 2010, when Epstein was a registered sex offender who had served time in jail. It was known that Andrew had met with Epstein around then – a picture of the duo walking in Central Park taken that December prompted questions over Andrew’s judgment. Shortly after the picture surfaced in 2011, Andrew quit his unpaid job as a trade envoy.
But the video footage published over the weekend goes further, showing the prince actually inside Epstein’s home.
Some commentators pointed out that Eptsein had a criminal record at the time.
“I literally don’t understand this,” tweeted Jeremy Vine, a well-known British broadcaster. “Prince Andrew remained friends with Epstein *after* his first conviction in 2008, which was public and contained all the elements he now says he’s appalled by.”
Andrew’s connections to Epstein came under fresh scrutiny following newly unsealed legal documents on Aug. 9. Less than 24 hours later, Epstein, who was in custody on charges of sex trafficking, was found dead in his prison cell. New York City’s medical examiner officially ruled his death a suicide by hanging.
The cache of court documents included a photograph of the prince with his arm around the waist of Virginia Roberts, then 17, who claimed that she was paid by Epstein for sexual encounters with the prince. The photograph first appeared in the British press in 2011.
Buckingham Palace doesn’t usually comment on scandalous accusations related to royals’ personal lives – their typical approach is to raise the drawbridge and simply say “no comment.” But the palace has repeatedly issued statements denying any wrongdoing by Andrew.
Andrew has long been dogged by questions over his friendship with Epstein. The two reportedly first met in the late 1990s, introduced by Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite who accusers say was Epstein’s girlfriend and madam.
According to the Sun tabloid, Andrew was recently spotted in Spain with his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson. The two were married between 1986 and 1996 but remain on good terms. Ferguson has also been criticized for her connections to Epstein, having accepted $18,000 from the disgraced financier to help pay off her debts. She called it a “gigantic error of judgment.”
Andrew is not a particularly popular member of the royal family and has, over the years, drawn attention for his playboy lifestyle – before his marriage to Ferguson, he was dubbed “Randy Andy” by the British press.
Andrew is the queen’s second son. Royal watchers said that the queen was showing her support for Andrew when she was pictured traveling with him to a church service in Scotland last weekend.