A PHOTO of Prince Andrew with his arm around a 17-year-old girl believed to be taken in 2001 would eventually bring his life as a working royal to a disgraceful end.
AFPThe notorious photo of Prince Andrew and Virginia Roberts taken in 2001[/caption]
supplied by Pixel8000Andrew previously claimed he was in Pizza Express in Woking on the night the picture was taken[/caption]
pixel8000Virginia has said the picture was taken the night they had sex[/caption]
Convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell – whose relationship to Prince Andrew has once again become the subject of global debate
But the now infamous image shows a 41-year-old Prince Andrew with his arm around Virginia’s waist at the time she claims she was being groomed and abused by Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.
And as of last week the photo is doing the rounds again globally with Andrew, 63, named over 70 times in shocking unsealed court documents about Epstein’s associates.
Over 1000 pages of documents including emails, depositions and legal papers spanning the 2010s were made public by US judge Loretta Preska.
Details of the lurid sex allegations made against convicted paedophile Epstein and Maxwell are frequent, as are shocking claims about Andrew.
And they claim an unnamed Jane Doe – understood to be his widely known accuser Giuffre – was “forced” by convicted sex offender Epstein to “have sexual relations” with the Duke – which he denies.
The infamous photo was reportedly taken on March 10, 2001, the same night that the Duke is alleged to have had sex with the teen at Maxwell’s Belgravia pad on Kinnerton Street.
Andrew wears black trousers and an open-necked blue shirt, while Roberts – now known as Virginia Giuffre – wears patterned trousers and a pink crop top.
In the background, Maxwell – wearing a sleeveless turtleneck sweater – looks on and smiles.
The picture was allegedly taken by disgraced paedo financier Jeffrey Epstein – with his thumb clumsily placed over the lens visible in wider version.
Maxwell’s court case saw a trove of personal photographs unearthed showing her and Epstein together as it appeared the on-off couple loved to document their life on camera.
They were snapped together on holiday in exotic locations and looking loved up as they flung their arms around one another.
But they were also seen in lurid pictures – such as those showing Maxwell giving Epstein a foot massage along with their pal Jean Luc Brunel.
And as Epstein allegedly snapped Andrew that night in London – another photo for their album – it’s unclear if the later-convicted paedo knew it would contribute to the final downfall of his friend.
Perhaps more than the photo itself, it was Andrew’s response to the picture which would turn out to be his undoing in the eyes of the public.
That night, Virginia alleged that she went to Tramp nightclub in central London with Andrew where they danced together and he bought her drinks.
In his car-crash interview with BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis, Andrew said that he didn’t know where the bar was in Tramp as he didn’t drink, and said he didn’t believe he had ever bought a drink in the club.
Famously, he claimed that on the night when the photo was taken, he was 35 miles away at a Pizza Express in the Surrey town of Woking.
Andrew also claimed he couldn’t sweat due to an overdose of adrenaline that he suffered during the Falklands War after Maitlis quoted Virginia as saying that his sweat was “raining everywhere”.
When they left the club, Virginia claimed Maxwell, Epstein’s then-girlfriend, instructed her “to do for Andrew what I do for Jeffrey”.
The photo from that night has been featured in countless articles, and for many, symbolises the downfall of Prince Andrew.
“If this were not a member of the Royal Family with a person from a very different social class, the picture would tell you nothing, because it’s not a picture of sexual assault,” former sex crimes prosecutor Wendy Murphy told The Guardian.
“In an ordinary case, the defence would just say it only proves they were at a party together.”
But for Andrew, what was so damaging according to Wendy, is that Maxwell is in the background and it “has no innocent explanation… there is no innocent reason for him to be hugging her, even in a social situation”.
During Virginia’s 2016 deposition as part of her defamation suit filed against Maxwell, it emerged that the Mail on Sunday paid her $140,000 (£103,000) to publish the photo, as well as $20,000 (£14,700) for two interviews.
She said during that deposition that she had lent the picture to the FBI in 2011, but hadn’t seen it since she packed up and moved to Australia.
The photo might, she said, be in her home, in storage at her in-laws’, or with “seven boxes full of Nerf guns, my kids’ toys, photos”.
Just a day before the settlement, Andrew’s legal team demanded to see the original copy of the photo as part of a bid to prove the picture was fake.
But, in another twist, Virginia Roberts’ lawyers claimed she had “lost” the infamous photo just a day later.
Despite efforts to try and discredit the photo, others have come forward to testify it is real.
Virginia’s ex boyfriend Tony Figueroa said he had seen the photo back in 2001 when she first told him about Andrew.
And journalist Michael Thomas, who was the first to copy the photograph in 2011, also said it was genuine and that he had seen the original image.
He told the Mail: “It wasn’t like she pulled the photo of Prince Andrew out, it was just in amongst the rest of them.
“They were just typical teenage snaps. There’s no way that photo is fake.”
Asked whether the photo was real in his Newsnight interview, Andrew insisted: “I don’t believe it’s a picture of me in London because… when I go out in London, I wear a suit and a tie.”
He added: “I am not one to, as it were, hug and public displays of affection are not something that I do.
“So that’s the best explanation I can give you and I’m afraid to say that I don’t believe that photograph was taken in the way that has been suggested.
He also tried to cast doubt on the image by describing it as a “photograph of a photograph of a photograph”.
Andrew has not been the only one to try and discredit the photo, with his ex-girlfriend Lady Victoria Hervey blasting Virginia as a “scam artist”.
Victoria continually claimed that the picture is fake, sharing images of supposed body doubles who she says were used to create the picture, as well as the apparent original unedited photograph showing just Ghislaine Maxwell.
But Maxwell – who is currently serving a 20-year sentence in prison for sex trafficking – appears to have confirmed that the notorious photo is real.
In a leaked email between Maxwell and her lawyer from January 2015, she is asked: “Do you know whether the photo of Andrew and Virginia is real? You are in the background.”
Shortly after she replies: “It looks real. I think it is.”
In the eyes of many, Andrew has been seen as guilty since settling with Guiffre for millions of pounds, even though paying the settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing.
Already stripped of his titles, Keir Starmer has called on the Met to reopen a criminal investigation against him following the file release.
The Duke is now a pariah and it would appear that Virginia’s photo – wherever it is – served as a catalyst for his downfall.
Another image previously released showed Epstein pictured by his private jet
Epstein – who killed himself in 2019 – with MaxwellThe Mega Agency
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