Twenty years ago, Prince Andrew’s attacks on Virginia Roberts Giuffre’s credibility may have proved fatal to her case. Now, the power has shifted
Why this story?
Virginia Roberts Giuffre was only 17 years old when she appeared in a now-famous photo. Taken upstairs in Ghislaine Maxwell’s London mews house, it shows her beaming into the camera. Maxwell is behind her, grinning. Jeffrey Epstein, the multi-millionaire paedophile, is out of shot: in fact, he’s the one taking the photo. And to Virginia’s right, smilingly sheepishly, is Prince Andrew.
Twenty years later, Epstein is dead, Ghislaine is a convicted sex trafficker, and Andrew has been stripped of his titles after he failed to throw out Virginia’s legal claim that he sexually abused her on that night in London and on three other occasions (he denies the claims).
So who is Virginia Roberts Giuffre? How did she come to be standing next to three of the world’s most powerful people, back in London in 2001? And 20 years later, how is it that she – someone who started with almost no power – is now in the strongest position of all? Alexi Mostrous, Investigations Editor
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: There are three places in the world where Virginia Roberts Giuffre says she was sexually abused by Prince Andrew.
At a mansion in New York, on a private island in the US Virgin Islands.
And here in London, in the heart of Belgravia.
You’re probably imagining an area of tall stucco houses, tree lined streets, designer shops and high end restaurants.
And you’d be right. Belgravia is home to Harrods and Harvey Nichols; the streets are awash with Bentleys and Teslas; and there’s a Gordon Ramsay restaurant just round the corner.
But it’s not all like that.
The street I’m on reveals a more private side.
It’s tucked away… a mews street you wouldn’t stumble on by accident. The houses here were once home to the horses and the servants of the big houses behind.
Still expensive, of course. But definitely under the radar. Away from prying eyes. Somewhere the powerful and the famous could go unnoticed…
About halfway down Kinnerton Street is the house that I’ve come to see.
A small, 3-storey Victorian mews house which was, until recently, owned by Ghislaine Maxwell.
A house which is to take centre stage in 2022.
And all because of a 17-year-old girl from Palm Beach in Florida.
What she says happened right here, more than 20 years ago, could determine the fate of a prince.
And tarnish the reputation of his entire family.
Because… it was upstairs in this mews house that Virginia Roberts Giuffre says she handed her camera to Jeffrey Epstein
Virginia Roberts Giuffre, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, 2020: I have this little yellow Kodak camera and I ask Jeffrey to take a photo of me and Prince Andrew together.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: And right after that photo was taken…
Virginia Roberts Giuffre, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, 2020: Ghislaine is literally like right behind me. Ghislaine tells me: You’re going to have to do to him what you do to Jeffrey… Right after that photo was taken I was sexually abused by Prince Andrew for the first time.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: As you might expect, Prince Andrew denies it all.
Prince Andrew, Newsnight, 2019: I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: This year Virginia’s accusations against the Duke might well come to court.
It will be a civil case, not a criminal one.
But still… if Andrew doesn’t settle the case, a US jury could finally decide what happened on the night of 10 March 2001… in that Kinnerton Street mews house.
If Andrew is found to have sexually assaulted Virginia… when she was only 17… she will have set off a bomb right at the heart of the royal family.
To be honest, even before it gets to that point, Virginia’s accusations have had a monumental effect.
As we were recording this podcast, the Queen stripped Andrew of all his military titles, telling him he could no longer call himself His Royal Highness, and banning him from carrying out public duties.
It’s a huge fall in grace for a man used to getting his own way.
And all of this stems from one woman.
So what I want to know is how did a poor girl from Florida come to be in the heart of Belgravia, right next to three of the world’s most powerful people?
And how is that 20 years later, she’s the one in the strongest position of all?
Lisa Bloom: I do think he will stand trial. And I do think that Virginia will win and he will be found liable for sexually abusing her. I think she will win her case.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: I’m Alexi Mostrous and in this week’s Slow Newscast I’m looking into a modern day David and Goliath battle.
A woman abused vs. a prince of the realm.
Virginia Roberts Guiffre vs. the Duke of York.
It’s been in the public domain for years but that famous photo of Prince Andrew and a young Virginia Roberts, as she was then, still takes my breath away.
It’s taken at the top of the narrow staircase in Ghislaine’s house in Belgravia.
There’s Prince Andrew, smiling towards the camera… a bit sheepishly, maybe… Ghislaine stands behind him, wearing a tight-fitting white top. Her grin… it’s a bit more woolfish.
But it’s Virginia you can’t stop looking at.
Beaming and beautiful, her blonde hair falling over her shoulders, she’s standing next to the prince.
His chubby fingers grip her bare teenage waist – pulling her into his body. She’s got her arm around him too but the grip seems looser, somehow.
Virginia Roberts Giuffre, NBC, 2019: That first time in London I was so young. Ghislaine woke me up in the morning and said: “You’re going to meet a prince today.” I didn’t know at that moment that I was going to be trafficked to that prince.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: In August, Virginia filed a lawsuit in the US accusing Andrew of sexual assault and rape.
If the case goes to trial that photo in Kinnerton Street will be a central piece of evidence.
It seems to back up her claims. Or, at least some of them.
Because it places Andrew and her together, in Ghisaline’s house – although it’s obviously not proof of sexual assault itself.
Andrew’s legal team have suggested that the photo might be faked. In fact, this is part of a pattern, because Andrew has tried to undermine Virginia’s story wherever he can.
He’s pointed, for instance, out that she was 16 when she was recruited by Epstein, not 15 like she first said.
He’s accused her of recruiting young girls for Epstein herself, saying Virginia was part of the problem. Through his lawyers, he’s even called her a “working prostitute”.
Basically, Andrew is doing what sex defendants have done for generations: attack the victim.
But here’s why Virginia Giuffre is important. Maybe even more important than the case itself.
She represents a new type of victim: someone who might not remember everything perfectly – but who can be believed in spite of that.
20 years ago Andrew’s attacks on Virginia’s credibility may have been fatal.
But the world has changed.
We’re living in a post #metoo society. Power has shifted, to some extent at least, away from defendants and towards victims.
And that could be a massive problem for the Prince.
Lisa Bloom: Good morning, good afternoon, whatever it is, wherever you are…
Alexi Mostrous: Good morning, good morning.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Lisa Bloom is a US attorney who’s represented eight of Epstein’s victims.
When Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted of sex trafficking this January, Lisa and her clients were watching closely.
Lisa Bloom: So we were anxiously awaiting the verdict over the period of a week and a half. And ultimately we got the word that the verdict was coming. We were very excited and I thought we would have more time. We really only had about 10 minutes. It was a short time. And then boom, there it was: convicted of five felonies out of the six. That’s a big win. And I was in close contact with one of my clients, one of my Epstein clients in particular. And we were just in shock and gasping for air. It was a very emotional moment.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Ghislaine’s lawyers followed roughly the same playbook as Andrew is now. They focused on undermining her accusers credibility and memory.
And… it didn’t work.
Alexi Mostrous: Do you think that the Maxwell conviction is a kind of a sign that juries now, you know, maybe after #metoo but after various social movements, are more willing to accept that victims are imperfect?
Lisa Bloom: I do. You know, when I was sat in that trial in the first week, the first accuser Jane was being cross-examined and she had to admit to a number of inconsistencies and many of the reporters in the room with me were aghast and thought, oh, that’s it, the prosecution has lost the case, it’s over. This is terrible. They started writing articles: prosecution has blown it. And I disagreed, but you know, I have the different perspective of being a trial lawyer and understanding that human beings… we’re all imperfect. We all make it. And the fact that there were four accusers really helped. If there had been just one… might be different, but there were four.
And, uh, I think the fourth one was one that really put it away. Annie Farmer, who, even though her accusations were relatively mild compared to the more serious types of sexual abuse that the others encountered, she had a lot of corroboration. She had her diary from the time, she had her boyfriend, she had her mother to back her up. And so I thought that was just sort of a great smart end to the prosecution’s case.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Ghislaine’s conviction puts huge pressure on Andrew.
For years, the Duke has tried to distance himself from Jeffrey Epstein by insisting that he was far better friends with Ghislaine, Epstein’s girlfriend.
But now that Ghislaine is a convicted child sex trafficker… that line doesn’t sound so good anymore.
Lisa Bloom: I do think that Prince Andrew should be quaking in his boots. First of all, he has admitted that Ghislaine Maxwell was a good friend of his. He tried to distance himself from Jeffrey Epstein by saying, well, I didn’t really know him. Ghislaine was the one that I knew. Okay. This was before she was indicted of course. He probably never thought she would be. And now here we are with her being a convicted sex trafficker. That’s a problem for him.
Second problem for him is we now see that a jury in the Southern District of New York, same district where Virginia’s case against him is pending, although hers is civil, the other one’s criminal. But we see a jury in Southern New York is willing to convict even a wealthy profile person. Victims are being believed in a way that is different from even five years ago, because we have had changed attitudes, which is largely attributable to the #metoo movement and the millions of victims, male and female, who have come forward and said, this happened to me too. And it’s really raised consciousness.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: The girl in the photograph is smiling but at this point, in March 2001, she was already caught up in something pretty horrific.
A web of abuse and sex trafficking, all orchestrated by Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein.
And Epstein was powerful, a billionaire with homes all over the world. Ghislaine Maxwell was the daughter of a publishing baron and a friend of royalty.
But for victims… the pair seem to have sought out their opposites: young girls with no power, no status.
Girls like Virginia.
Virginia Roberts Giuffre, Surviving Jeffrey Epstein, 2020: At seven I started getting abused by a family member. My childhood was quickly stolen from me. I just started imploding. I would run away, I’d be on the streets for days at a time.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Virginia Giuffre was 14 when she first ran away from home.
And she spent two years, it seems, in some sort of hell. She was drugged and kept captive by a sex trafficker – not Epstein, a guy called Ron Eppinger – who tried to groom her for use in his escort agency.
Virginia Roberts Giuffre, Surviving Jeffrey Epstein, 2020: So I was pretty vulnerable by the time I get to Mar-a-Lago.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Somehow, aged about 16, Virginia managed to find her way home.
She moved back in with her father and took a job at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.
And for a very brief period it seemed like her life was back on track
Virginia Roberts Giuffre, Surviving Jeffrey Epstein, 2020: I’d only been at my job with Mar-a-Lago for a couple of weeks but it didn’t take me that long to realise this is where I wanna be. This is what I want to do.
My duties there were in the spa area. So I would hand out fresh towels. I loved working with these beautiful massage therapists. And they’d come talk to me all the time and I was really interested so I went to the library and I rented a book on massage therapy.
Ghislaine Maxwell approached me at the spa area. She was like this really bright, Mary Poppins kind of a figure. And she said, oh, you’re reading a book on massage therapy? And, you know, we started talking. And she goes, oh, you know what? I know this guy. There’s an opportunity, actually, if you want to become a real massage therapist. We can get you trained. You can come for the interview tonight. And if he likes you, then you’ll be a real masseuse. And you’ll get to see the world, and you’ll get paid $200 per massage. And, like, no alarm bells went off because it was this proper, English lady who just looked so nice.
I ran over to my dad who works on the tennis courts at Mar-a-Lago. And he knows I’m trying to fix my life up at that point, which is why he got me the job there. And I said, you’re not gonna believe it, dad. I just got offered a job… an interview, but if he likes me for the interview, then I’m going to be, uh, they’re going to train me as a real masseuse, a real massage therapist.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: There was no sign, at this point, that she was walking into a trap.
Virginia Roberts Giuffre, Surviving Jeffrey Epstein, 2020: My dad brought me over. He shakes hands with Ghislaine, who promises that she’ll take good care of me and she will have someone drive me home. She led me up a staircase, and we made a right into Jeffrey’s room and Jeffrey’s laying naked on the massage table. Jeffrey lifts his head up, looks at Ghislaine. Ghislaine looks at him, and I call it the Cheshire cat grin because his face went like this, and it was like a nod of approval.
Ghislaine got me quickly into, like, here’s the lotions. Here’s the oils. We’re going to each take half of his body, so you can follow my instructions. It just looked like a legitimate massage. Then they also started asking me questions about my life.
I really, really wanted this job, so I opened up to them. I said, look, this is an opportunity of a lifetime for me. I’ve been on the streets. I’ve been abused, and that’s the worst thing that I could have done because I just let them know that I’m vulnerable and I’m their perfect type.
Ghislaine grabbed one foot. I grabbed the other. And she says, you always want to keep one hand on the body when you’re massaging somebody. And then he turns over, and the entire thing changed.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: The abuse, Virginia says, began on that very first day.
Virginia Roberts Giuffre, Surviving Jeffrey Epstein, 2020: They said, take off your clothes. I had these little-girl undies on – like, little hearts on them, I remember. And they were laughing at that because they liked that. The younger you looked, the better it is. It turned very sexual, and it was abuse straight away from both of them. I got paid $200, and the butler drove me home.
The shame was immediate. I remember sitting at the bottom of my shower and crying my eyes out. I’d been on the streets and I thought, you know, well maybe this is the lesser of two evils. I had the promise of an education and maybe this is just how the world works. If abuse is so prevalent in my life, maybe that’s just what it is. That’s just life.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Virginia is told to leave her job at Mar-a-Lago to work full time for Epstein.
Virginia Roberts Giuffre, Miami Herald interview, 2020: The training started immediately. I mean it was everything down to how to give a blow job, how to be quiet, be subservient, give Jeffrey what he wants. A lot of this training came from Ghislaine herself and being a woman it kind of surprises you that a woman could actually let stuff like that happen, but not only let it happen but to groom you into doing it. And then there’s Jeffrey who’s telling you I want it this way, you know, go slower and don’t do that and do this.
You’re just thrown into a world that you don’t understand… you’re screaming on the inside and you don’t know how to let it come out and you just become this numb figure who refuses to feel and refuses to speak. All you do is obey, that’s it. And eventually it led to now we’re going to experiment. Now we’re going to try you with another guy.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Soon, she says she was loaned out to Epstein’s friends: businessmen, celebrities, politicians.
And flight logs proved that she travelled many times on Epstein’s private jet, known as the “Lolita Express”.
Virginia Roberts Giuffre, Miami Herald interview, 2020: It was called Lolita Express for a reason. That was a vessel for him to be able to abuse girls and get away with it without anybody being alarmed or any alarm bells going off. It was all the same, no matter where you went, all Jeffery cared about was go find me more girls. To me still to this day, it is my biggest shame that I carry around that I will never get rid of. And I’m really, really sad that I brought other girls my age, and even younger, into a world that they should’ve never been introduced to.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Flights logs show that in March 2001, when Virginia was 17, she was taken to London, with Epstein and Ghislaine.
And that’s how, she says, she came to be standing next to Andrew in that small mews house in Belgravia.
I can’t do Virginia’s story justice in just one podcast episode. I mean we’re talking about 20 years, from 2001 to today.
But in brief… when she was 19 Epstein sent her to Thailand to take a massage course. Instead, she found a husband and moved to Australia.
“Have a nice life,” Epstein said, hanging up the phone when she told him.
And Virginia didn’t hear from him or Ghislaine again until about six years later.
Virginia Roberts Giuffre, Miami Herald interview, 2020: I get a phone call from Ghislaine one day in Australia. I’m Australia and I was like how the hell did she just find me? I’ve been out of their life for so long: what’s going on? She’s like: have you talked to anybody? Have you told anybody what’s happened? You know, have you reported us or anything? I said, no, I haven’t spoken to anybody. Okay good. You stay like that, you stay quiet. The next day Jeffrey calls me with his lawyer on the phone and he asks me the same questions: have you talked to anybody, are you gonna report me, are you gonna talk to anybody? I’m like where is this all coming from?
The next day I get another phone call. And this time it’s from an FBI agent… like hi I’m blah blah blah from the FBI have you given Jeffrey Epstein a blow job? Did you have a shower with Jeffrey Epstein? Did you ever bring any girls over for Jeffrey Epstein? I’m like I don’t even know who you are… unless you can come over here and show me some official documentation that says that you’re with the FBI I am not saying a word to you. And about six months later I got a knock at the door and it’s the Australian Federal Police.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: A year later, in 2008, Epstein struck a plea deal with US prosecutors.
It was – by all accounts – pretty extraordinary.
Despite a mountain of evidence that he’d abused multiple girls, Epstein served only 18 months in prison.
Most days a driver would pick him up from a private wing in the prison and drive him to his office where he was allowed to work.
Despite the sweetheart deal, Epstein’s fortunes didn’t last long.
Victims soon started bringing cases against him, including Virginia, who in 2009 accepted a $500,000 settlement.
Then, in 2015, she sued Ghislaine for defamation. And that case was settled too.
And now her focus is on Andrew.
Tara Palmeri: Virginia is on a mission. She has a real strong sense of what justice is, what the victims of Jeffrey Epstein deserve and how they’ve been let down by the justice system.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: This is Tara Palmeri, a journalist who’s spent quite a lot of time with Victoria.
They travelled across the US together for a podcast. Virginia was trying to track down anyone who might have witnessed Epstein’s abuse. People who worked for him, chefs, drivers that sort of thing
Anything to try and corroborate her story.
Tara Palmeri: For these women, they need those third parties – often men – to verify their accounts because all you’re hearing is this is Virginia’s side of the story, and a bunch of women who are just like her with similar stories. And here’s a denial from a very famous man saying she is a liar. And I’m sure that’s terrifying.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Tara has no doubts about Virginia’s intelligence.
Tara Palmeri: She actually just has this amazing, vivacious personality. She’s very charming. She’s a laugh, like she’s really fun. And she’s very articulate. She’s super smart…
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: But she’s vulnerable too.
Tara Palmeri: I saw her while we were traveling around really breaking down, like being triggered by things that she saw, like, for example, when we pass by the private airport in Palm Beach she just got like a pain in her stomach and she just got like, emotionally, like her body reacted to what that reminded her of, you know, it’s like, it’s so visceral.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: On the podcast, Virginia and Tara knock on the door of Juan Alessi.
He was a housekeeper who used to work for Epstein in Palm Beach. Unlike other witnesses, who turned them away, Alessi at least let Virginia into his house.
Tara was annoyed about what she saw as Alessi’s slipperiness.
Tara Palmeri: His story kept changing. He acknowledged there was abuse, but he couldn’t do anything about it. You know, he would deny things and then acknowledge them. And he just was all over the place. I felt like he was just not a reliable witness and I didn’t know if he was a good guy. I think if I was Virginia, I’d be mad at him a little bit. Right? Like you pick me up from school, you drive me around. Pick up other girls, you paid me money. Must’ve known what’s happening, right? But instead, at the end, she gave him a big hug and was like, I want to see you again. Like, I’d love to see your art. I want to spend time with you. And it just made me really angry, the whole thing, and I said it in the car. And for her she was like, you don’t get it. Like so many people just slam the door in my face. Just to get a little bit of an acknowledgement is huge…
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Progress, for Virginia, it seems, is not having a door slammed in your face.
Alexi: What sense did you get of her determination to kind of keep on going, like, for a whole decade and more?
Tara Palmeri: Yeah, she just won’t back down. Like, I mean, people would say, oh, you got your money, be quiet, right? Like, that’s… go away. But it’s not about that for her. It really is about justice. And I think that’s what motivates her. You can just see it when she speaks. I mean, she’s very eloquent. She’s doing what she sees as her life’s work. She’s made her suffering into something bigger.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: If Virginia’s case against Andrew goes ahead this year – and there’s a strong chance it will – then that night in Kinnerton Street, on 10 March 2001, will be at the centre of everything.
Both parties have given accounts of what happened. Not in a court of law, but to journalists.
While Virginia has spoken out many times, Andrew has done so just once, to Newsnight – the BBC current affairs show.
He was questioned by Emily Maitlis about his relationships with Epstein, Ghislaine and Virginia herself.
And let’s just say… the interview did not go well.
There was no apology. No sense of real regret about his friendship with Epstein. And some seriously bizarre excuses for why Virginia’s account just didn’t add up.
Here’s Virginia’s side of the story – and Andrew’s.
Virginia Roberts Guiffre, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, 2020: I first met Prince Andrew March 10 2001 in London at Ghislaine’s townhouse.
Prince Andrew, Newsnight, 2019: I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady. None whatsoever.
Virginia Roberts Guiffre, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, 2020: He knocked on the door, he came inside Ghislaine’s townhouse. We’re sitting there having tea. And Andrew is talking about Fergie, which is ex-wife at that point, and Ghislain’s bad mouthing Fergie as well, and Epstein’s just socially awkward. So I think he’s just laughing about everything and I’m sitting there, like I was always told to do – sit there. Don’t talk unless you’re talked to and be polite and laugh at everything that someone says when they’re trying to be funny. And it seemed like friends just catching up.
Virginia Roberts Guiffre, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, 2020: Ghislaine has this favourite guessing game that she does. She goes to Prince Andrew, how old do you think Virginia is? He says 17. And she’s like you’re right. And they made a little joke about it. And he’s like my daughters aren’t far from your age… my daughter’s a little bit younger than you. We went out for the night. Club Tramp in London.
Emily Maitlis, Newsnight, 2019: She dined with. She danced with you. You bought her drinks. You’re in Tramp nightclub in London. And she went on to have sex with you in a house in Belgravia belonging to Ghislaine Maxwell.
Prince Andrew, Newsnight, 2019: Didn’t happen.
Emily Maitlis, Newsnight, 2019: Do you remember her?
Prince Andrew, Newsnight, 2019: I, I, I, I’ve no recollection of ever meeting her. I’m almost, in fact, I’m convinced, um, that I was never in Tramps with her.
Virginia Roberts Guiffre, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, 2020: Prince Andrew got me alcohol, it was in the VIP section. It was… I’m pretty sure it was vodka.
Prince Andrew, Newsnight, 2019: There are a number of things that are wrong with that story. One of which is that, is that I don’t know where the bar is in, um, Tramps. I don’t drink. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a drink in Tramp whenever I was there.
Virginia Roberts Guiffre, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, 2020: Prince Andrew was like let’s dance together, and I was like okay…
Emily Maitlis, Newsnight, 2019: Do you remember dancing at Tramp?
Prince Andrew, Newsnight, 2019: No, that couldn’t have happened because the date that was being suggested I was at home with the children.
Emily Maitlis, Newsnight, 2019: You know that you were at home with the children. Was it a memorable night?
Prince Andrew, Newsnight, 2019: That particular day that we now understand is the date, 10 March, I was at home. I was with the children. I’d taken Beatrice to a Pizza Express in Woking for a party at, I suppose, sort of four or five in the afternoon.
Emily Maitlis, Newsnight, 2019: Why would you remember that so specifically, why would you remember a Pizza Express birthday and being at home?
Prince Andrew, Newsnight, 2019: Because going to Pizza Express in Woking is an unusual thing for me to do.
Virginia Roberts Guiffre, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, 2020: And he dances… and he’s profusely sweating over me and it was disgusting.
Prince Andrew, Newsnight, 2019: This is a slight problem with, with, with, with, with the sweating, because I have a peculiar medical condition, which is that I don’t sweat. Um, or I didn’t sweat at the time. And that was, oh, actually, yes, I didn’t sweat at the time because I had suffered what I would describe as an overdose of adrenaline in the Falklands war when I was shot at. And I simply, it, it was, it was, it was almost impossible for me to, to sweat.
Virginia Roberts Guiffre, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, 2020: We get back to the townhouse and we go upstairs. I have this little yellow Kodak camera and I ask Jeffrey to take a photo of me and Prince Andrew together.
[Sound effect: camera]
Prince Andrew, Newsnight, 2019: Again, I have absolutely no memory of that photograph ever being taken.
Emily Maitlis, Newsnight, 2019: Do you recognize yourself…
Prince Andrew, Newsnight, 2019: Oh yes it is pretty difficult not to recognize yourself.
Emily Maitlis, Newsnight, 2019: Your friend suggested that the photo is fake.
Prince Andrew, Newsnight, 2019: I think it’s… from the investigations that we’ve done, you can’t prove whether or not that photo is, uh, faked or not because it is a photograph of a photograph of a photograph. I have simply no recollection of the photograph ever being taken. I don’t remember ever going upstairs in the house because that photograph is taken upstairs.
Virginia Roberts Guiffre, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, 2020: Ghislaine is right behind me and Ghislaine tells me: you’re going to have to do to him what you do to Jeffrey… And right after that photo was taken I was sexually abused by Prince Andrew for the first time.
Emily Maitlis, Newsnight, 2019: You don’t recall meeting Virginia Roberts, dining with her, dancing with her at Tramp, or going on to have sex with her in a bedroom, in a house in Belgravia?
Prince Andrew, Newsnight, 2019: I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Virginia’s lawyers have focused on the Newsnight interview as a key piece of evidence.
They’ve asked the Duke to provide proof that he couldn’t sweat and that he was in Woking collecting his daughter when he says he was.
You’d think that Andrew would have some sort of proof of this. Medical, anecdotal… but so far his lawyers have handed nothing over.
More than the sweating, more – even – than the visit to Pizza Express… there is one other part of the Newsnight interview that I find extraordinary.
Prince Andrew, Newsnight, 2019: Now 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 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.
That’s Andrew’s explanation for why he visited Epstein in New York in 2010, after he knew Epstein had been convicted for child sex offences.
But is it really believable that he flew more than 3,000 miles just to tell a convicted paedophile that he had to break off his friendship?
And if so, it doesn’t explain why he stayed in Epstein’s house for 4 days – on his own – and agreed to be guest of honour at a swanky dinner party.
I spoke to someone who knows Andrew, and they suggested we shouldn’t expect royalty to behave like the rest of us. They added that society’s perspectives on who was and who wasn’t a good person has changed since 2010.
Well… I buy that up to a point.
But maybe Virginia’s lawsuit will reveal other – more sensitive – motives behind the Duke’s trip to New York.
After all, Epstein helped Sarah Ferguson, the Duke’s ex-wife, settle her debts in 2011.
So maybe we’ll find out that the trip was more about money than friendship.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: When Virginia launched her civil lawsuit against the Duke of York in August last year, she filed the case in the Southern District of New York.
And the claim was made under something called the Child Victims Act, a New York law giving victim of child sex abuse more time to sue.
Now, it’s hard to know how much influence Andrew has over his hotshot lawyers
But one tactic they used to try to get the case struck out has troubled many legal experts.
Andrew’s lawyers tried to argue that the Child Victims Act was unconstitutional.
And if they’d succeeded, it may have prevented other child abuse victims from coming to court.
Not a good look for a royal – you might think – especially since Andrew was once patron of the NSPCC’s “full stop” campaign against child abuse.
Lisa Bloom: How dare they make that argument? For many years, people who were victims of child sexual abuse could not bring a case against the perpetrator unless they did it within a very short period of time. I think approximately three years from when they turned 18, so 21. Most victims are not ready yet to do that. They’re in their thirties, forties, whatever age, some people take these secrets to their graves.
So only recently has New York expanded that law and said victims now have more time. If you were a child victim, you can now come forward and bring a case even many years later. That’s the law that Virginia is using to sue prince Andrew for, she says, abusing her when she was under age. Okay. His lawyers, in trying to get her case thrown out, have argued that that entire law should be held unconstitutional. And if they had won that argument, the law would have been struck down in its entirety. And not only would Virginia’s case be thrown out, but other victims coming after her seeking justice also would not have the chance to use that law to seek justice.
So I thought that was shameful. I’m not willing to say, oh, that was just his lawyers. The lawyers work for him. And he should never have allowed them to make that argument.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: It seems like – at every turn – from his Newsnight interview to the hardball tactics of his lawyers, Andrew is a step behind.
Not only a step behind Virginia but a step behind public opinion.
His latest attempt to get the case thrown out has just failed. A judge in New York has just made a ruling which will allow the civil lawsuit to proceed to trial.
And that decision means that over the next few months, Andrew will have to either settle the case or start disclosing documents to Vriginia’s team.
Documents like diary entries, emails, medical records… anything relevant to the case.
Lisa Bloom: I would want to talk to security officers who accompanied him on the famous night when he went to the Pizza Express. And let’s see security logs, let’s see calendars, let’s see whatever documents exist that document where Prince Andrew is at any given time, which I’m sure is kept to some extent. Calendars, journals, diaries, schedules as the British would say…
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Virginia Roberts Guiffre has signalled that she will refuse any purely financial settlement, suggesting that unless Andrew also apologises for his behaviour the case is going to proceed to court.
And let’s pause a moment to appreciate how extraordinary a situation that would be.
A prince of the realm – the Queen’s favourite son – in a civil court accused of sexual assault and rape.
So what next?
Well the judge set a clear timetable. He says he wants depositions done by mid July.
And what that means is that Andrew would have to give a formal interview to Virginia’s lawyers – under oath.
If he doesn’t want to answer a question, he’ll have to invoke the fifth amendment, something that American courts allow defendants to do in order to stop incriminating themselves.
Just imagine Prince Andrew – one step removed from the Queen herself – saying on camera and under oath: “I plead the fifth”.
Lisa Bloom: I think his attorneys have shown that they’re going to raise any argument they can possibly think of no matter whether it’s a strong argument or a weak argument. That’s not a good practice in my opinion, I try not to raise weak arguments in front of a judge because I think it affects my credibility. You always want to look reasonable in front of the judge. Um, but I think that’s what’s next. So the discovery phase generally takes nine to 12 months – longer if there’s a lot of disputes that arise. Uh, so I think that’s what’s coming.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: And if it does come to trial – who’s gonna win?
Well that’s hard to predict. In this case, there are inconsistencies on both sides.
That’s hardly surprising. The alleged events happened 20 years ago and apart from that photo there’s little else to go on bar memories.
For years, a classic he said/she said scenario would favour the defendant.
After all – it’s up to claimants to prove their case.
But now, today… I can’t imagine Andrew is feeling that confident.
If a jury decides that Andrew has committed sexual assault, then in 2022 there’ll only be one person left standing – reputation intact – out of the 4 people in the mews house in Belgravia on that night in 2001.
Lisa Bloom: I do think he will stand trial. And I do think that Virginia will win and he will be found liable, uh, for sexually abusing her. It’s a long road between here and there. But what I see in Virginia and her attorneys is a team that’s very committed to fighting this to the end. And what I see in Prince Andrew is a bad witness, a guy who makes a lot of mistakes when he’s in the hot seat. So that’s why I come to the conclusion that I think she will win her case.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: For the Queen, this year was supposed to be a moment of triumph.
Next month she will become the first British monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee – that’s 70 years on the throne.
Now, a sex trial involving her second son risks overshadowing – or at least tainting – a lifetime of service.
She’s tried to limit the damage by taking away Andrew’s titles and demoting him into a private citizen. Yet how effective that will be remains to be seen.
It’s still possible to think that the institution she leads – the royal family itself – with its palaces and secret trusts and sense of privacy – may be partly responsible for the mess that Andrew is in today.
Just as Epstein’s wealth allowed him to get away with abuse for so long, if Andrew is found to have assaulted Virginia, the hidden power of the monarchy may have helped him do it.
That’s an uncomfortable idea – but it’s clear that Andrew has never operated in a vacuum. He is – like it or not – intimately woven into the fabric of the royal family, and its establishment power.
And as the Windsors prepare themselves for the Queen’s death – and for Charles to become King – that’s a horrible legacy to contend with.
But if Virginia’s case means anything at all – it’s a sign that power and privilege are no longer as important as they once were.
This episode was written and presented by me, Alexi Mostrous. It was produced by Katie Gunning and Xavier Greenwood. Sound design is by Tom Kinsella.