On Sunday, Buckingham Palace formally denied for a second time allegations that Prince Andrew, Duke of York and brother of Prince Charles, had "sexual relations" with an underage girl who served as a "sex slave" to Andrew's close friend, the billionaire American investor Jeffrey Epstein.
In legal documents filed last week in Florida, a woman referred to as "Jane Doe #3" — whom British newspapers have identified as Virginia Roberts — claimed that Epstein forced her into sex slavery and then loaned her out to his rich friends. Roberts, now 30, alleges that when she was 17 she engaged in sexual activity with Prince Andrew in London, New York, and a private island in the Caribbean, where she claimed Andrew took part in "an orgy with numerous other under-aged girls."
Though Roberts first openly aired these allegations against the Duke of York years ago, British broadsheets have reported on little else since the scandal broke anew on January 2. That Friday, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson offered a statement that said, "for the avoidance of doubt, any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue." After further details of the allegations were reported over the weekend, the palace issued an uncharacteristically vigorous refutation that referred directly to Roberts, saying, "It is emphatically denied that HRH the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. The allegations made are false and without any foundation."
Over the weekend, Virginia Roberts's father claimed that his daughter had once been introduced to Queen. "There is nothing to suggest that this claim is true," a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said. "We have no record of such a meeting."
Roberts says that she was recruited into underage sex slavery by Ghislaine Maxwell, the socialite daughter of the late Robert Maxwell, a former UK Member of Parliament and disgraced publishing mogul who died in 1991 after falling overboard from his yacht. The legal motion claims that Maxwell "was one of the main women whom Epstein used to procure under-age girls for sexual activities." Maxwell has denied those claims.
The motion further alleges that Epstein "sexually trafficked" Roberts, "making her available for sex to politically connected and financially powerful people." Epstein allegedly instructed Roberts "to give the prince whatever he demanded," and to "report back on the details of the sexual abuse."
As reports of the legal filing's allegations against Prince Andrew emerged, Buckingham Palace lawyers sent a letter to British media editors urging caution in their reporting on the story. The Guardianreported that the letter reminded editors "of their responsibilities under the Independent Press Standards Organization code and the law."
Roberts's motion relates to an ongoing lawsuit concerning US prosecutors' handling of a criminal case against Epstein concerning allegations that he had engaged in unlawful sex with minors.
In 2006, the FBI launched a federal inquiry into reports that Epstein had sexually abused dozens of underage girls at his Florida mansion. But the investigation was scrapped in 2008, after Epstein struck a controversial deal with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to lesser state charges of soliciting prostitution with a minor. He served 13 months of an 18-month jail sentence, and was released in 2009. He is now registered sex offender.
Two years after Epstein's release, Prince Andrew controversiallyvisitedhis old pal in New York. They were photographed walking through Central Park together.
Two of Epstein's alleged victims are pursuing a civil lawsuit against federal prosecutors, arguing that they had violated the Crime Victims' Act of 2004 by failing to consult them about Epstein's plea deal. Their lawyers have reportedly asked the US government to turn over any evidence that Prince Andrew lobbied Washington on behalf of Epstein. Buckingham Palace has denied that the Duke of York sought to influence the US Justice Department.
Last week's filing concerned a motion by two additional women, including Roberts, to join the suit.
Though Roberts — now a mother of three in Australia — filed her recent motion anonymously, she publically confirmed her allegations against Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein in interviews with the Daily Mail published in 2011. On Sunday, she appeared in another lengthy Daily Mail feature in which she alleged that in 2001 she and Ghislaine Maxwell flew to London, where they stayed at Maxwell's townhouse. The morning after arriving in Britain, Roberts said she was woken by Maxwell: "Get up, get up, sleepyhead. You've got a big day. We've gotta go shopping. You need a dress because you're going to dance with a prince tonight."
Roberts described meeting Prince Andrew at Maxwell's home that evening. "We kissed each other on the cheek as I'd been told is the English custom," she said. The entourage then traveled to a nightclub, where Roberts danced with Andrew in a VIP room. "He was the most hideous dancer I had ever seen," she said. "He was grabbing my hips and he was pouring with perspiration." Roberts said she had sex with the then 41-year-old prince that night.
Roberts claims she was paid around $15,000 for her efforts. "Jeffrey always took care of paying me after I 'entertained' his friends," she remarked.
Police sources told the Telegraphthat Scotland Yard would investigate the claims if Roberts makes a formal complaint against him.
Andrew, dubbed the "Playboy Prince" by British journalists, is known for keeping rather seedy company. He stepped down from his role as UK special trade envoy in 2011, in part due to his relationship with Epstein but also because of his close ties to an assortment of moneyed dictators, including Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev.
On Sunday, the Prince returned from a holiday ski trip in Switzerland. He is reportedly holed up at his home at Windsor Castle.
Roberts's legal motion also implicates Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a prominent criminal defense attorney and close associate of Epstein's who helped arrange his plea deal. The filing alleges that Epstein forced her "to have sexual relations with Dershowitz on numerous occasions while she was a minor," and asserts that he "was an eye-witness to the sexual abuse of many other minors by Epstein and several of Epstein's co-conspirators."
Dershowitz has strenuously denied these claims repeatedly since they were reported. He recently gave an interview with CNN in which he said that he is filing an affidavit under oath denying the allegations as well as a motion to intervene in the case.
"I never met this woman, I never touched her, I wasn't ever massaged by her — there was no contact, no contact whatsoever," Dershowitz told CNN. "And I will prove it conclusively, and then I will bring disciplinary charges and prove that these lawyers knew that this was false, could easily have checked, and didn't. And the end result will be that these lawyers will be disbarred."
"If she's lied about me, which I know to an absolute certainty she has, she should not be believed about anyone else," Dershowitz had earlier remarked to BBC Radio 4's Today program. "So I think it must be presumed that all of her allegations against Prince Andrew were false as well."
For her part, Virginia Roberts told the Daily Mail, "It appears that I am now being unjustly victimized again. These types of aggressive attacks on me are exactly the reason why sexual abuse victims typically remain silent and the reason why I did for a long time. That trend should change. I'm not going to be bullied back into silence."
Follow Katie Engelhart on Twitter: @katieengelhart