The case against Prince Andrew: As the Duke’s lawyers prepare to face a judge in a last-gasp attempt to avoid a trial, we scrutinise the facts behind the jaw-dropping accusations by Jeffrey Epstein’s teenage sex slave

Just before 3pm on Tuesday, Prince Andrew will log in to his computer at Royal Lodge, his 30-room mansion in Windsor Great Park, and click on an internet link that has been emailed to him by his lawyers.

Seconds later, via an online video stream, the Duke will be staring into the eyes of Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, a grizzled legal veteran in New York in whose hands the fate of the Queen’s second son will rest.

On both sides of the Atlantic the stakes could not be higher. The beleaguered Prince is desperately fighting a civil lawsuit filed by Virginia Roberts who alleges she was raped by him when she was the teenage ‘sex slave’ of paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

During this week’s hearing – precisely 7,600 days since the first of three occasions on which Ms Roberts claims she was forced to have sex with the Duke – Andrew’s legal team will try to persuade Judge Kaplan that the case should be thrown out.

If their bid fails, Andrew faces the unimaginable prospect of a public trial where he would be accused of ‘rape in the first degree’.

A surge of Omicron cases in New York means the application will be heard remotely instead of inside Judge Kaplan’s courtroom in the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Courthouse in Lower Manhattan. 

The hearing, which is expected to last around an hour, comes just days after Andrew’s former friend Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted of child sex trafficking in a case in which Ms Roberts, who now uses her married name Giuffre, was referenced as a victim.

The beleaguered Prince is desperately fighting a civil lawsuit filed by Virginia Roberts who alleges she was raped by him when she was the teenage ‘sex slave’ of paedophile Jeffrey Epstein

Maxwell was found to have groomed girls as young as 14 for Epstein, a billionaire financier and friend of Andrew, to sexually exploit. The Duke vehemently denies any wrongdoing and says that has no recollection of ever meeting Ms Roberts.

Andrew’s lawyer Andrew Brettler, who has defended a string of Hollywood celebrities, will join this week’s hearing from an office in Los Angeles with his colleague Melissa Lerner. Ms Roberts’s lawyers – 80-year-old David Boies and the formidable Sigrid McCawley – will be in New York, while the Duke’s British legal team, led by solicitor Gary Bloxsome, will watch from an office in Central London.

Sources have told The Mail on Sunday that Andrew will not participate but is expected to watch from his home.

He will cut a lonely figure as his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson and their two daughters were last night pictured in Verbier, Switzerland, where they were enjoying a skiing holiday. If the embattled Duke’s bid is successful, then 2022 could be the year in which he finally starts to rebuild his shattered reputation. 

If he faces a civil trial, however, the consequences could be devastating, not least because it will overshadow the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and cause irreparable damage to the Royal Family.

Indeed, his family’s reputation has arguably already been tarnished by the FBI’s claim that the Duke has refused to speak to the agency as part of its ongoing investigation into Epstein’s sex ring.

Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein take a stroll through New York’s Central Park in December 2010

What will be at the heart of this virtual court showdown, with the participants separated by thousands of miles? The MoS has pieced together the stories behind Ms Roberts’s jaw-dropping allegations and assessed the veracity, and inconsistencies, in both her case and Andrew’s defence.

Ms Roberts, 38, alleges that she was forced by Epstein to have sex with the Duke on three separate occasions in 2001 and is seeking unspecified damages.

The first alleged occasion, on March 10, 2001, when Ms Roberts was 17, is perhaps the most notorious, seared as it is in the public consciousness by a widely published photograph that has been subjected to intense scrutiny.

The image, first printed by this newspaper almost 11 years ago, shows Andrew, then 41, smiling with his left arm around the bare midriff of Ms Roberts at Maxwell’s mews house in London. Earlier that evening, according to Ms Roberts, she went for dinner with Epstein, Maxwell and the Prince, and then on to Tramp, a members-only nightclub. 

‘Prince Andrew was like, ‘Let’s dance together’, and I was like, ‘OK’, and he was a hideous dancer,’ Ms Roberts claimed in an interview with NBC News in 2019. ‘He was sweating profusely all over me.’

She alleges that they returned to Maxwell’s mews house in Belgravia, where Epstein took the infamous photograph, before leading Andrew to a bathroom.

‘The abuse went on for a little bit in the bathroom and then it continued to the bedroom, and he wasn’t rude or anything about it, he said thank you,’ she alleged.

Although Andrew’s advisers have attempted to cast doubt on the authenticity of the photograph, further evidence that the Duke and Ms Roberts were in London at the same time is contained within flight logbooks belonging to Epstein’s pilot, which suggest that the tycoon’s Gulfstream jet flew from Tangier in Morocco to Luton Airport on March 9, 2001. On board, according to the passenger manifest, were Epstein, Maxwell, Ms Roberts and a young woman who is said to be Maxwell’s assistant.

During his infamous Newsnight interview in 2019, Andrew said he had ‘no recollection’ of ever meeting Ms Roberts and that he had been ‘at home’ all evening after taking his daughter, Beatrice, then 12, to Pizza Express in Woking.

It has been assumed that by ‘home’, Andrew was referring to Sunninghill Park, the Berkshire mansion that he then shared with his ex-wife.

Andrew also dismissed Ms Roberts’s account of their nightclub dancing, claiming that ‘an over-dose of adrenaline in the Falklands War’ meant that he was unable to sweat at the time.

In January 2015, according to legal testimony given under oath, Ms Roberts said she had sex with Andrew during an orgy on Little St James, Epstein’s so-called ‘Paedo Island’ in the Caribbean. ‘Epstein, Andy, approximately eight other young girls, and I had sex together, she claimed. Epstein’s home on Little St James is pictured above

Aspects of his alibi have been questioned over the past two years. In February 2020, a former Royal protection officer told the MoS that he believed the Prince may have returned to Buckingham Palace in the early hours of March 11, 2001.

In an effort to confirm this, the ex-officer asked for access to his shift roster at Buckingham Palace, but was eventually told the records had been destroyed.

The Daily Mail last year reported that, according to a family diary, Andrew had booked a home manicure in the afternoon he said he dropped Beatrice off at Pizza Express, while the family who hosted the birthday party at the restaurant reportedly confirmed Beatrice attended but could not recall whether the Prince was there.

The Duke’s lawyers this weekend acknowledged that he can offer no witnesses to support his Pizza Express claim, nor any documents that show his inability to sweat.

But concerns have also been raised over the accuracy of Ms Roberts’s claims.

Floorplans of Maxwell’s bathroom reveal a small room and a standard sized bath – a cramped squeeze for two people.

Her claim that Andrew drank alcohol at Tramp has also been challenged by multiple sources who describe him as teetotal, while his equerry at the time said: ‘The idea of him dancing like that with all eyes on him is… unimaginable.’

The setting for Ms Roberts’s second allegation of sexual abuse – a month later in April 2001 – was Epstein’s £60 million New York mansion in a massage room dubbed ‘the dungeon’.

During his Newsnight interview, the Duke denied staying overnight at Epstein’s Manhattan home. ‘I wasn’t staying there. I may have visited but definitely didn’t, definitely, definitely no, no, no activity,’ he insisted.

But it was claimed last year that sources had confirmed that Andrew was a guest at the vast 21,000 sq ft townhouse during the final night of a three-day trip in April 2001.

Meanwhile, the official itinerary for the visit to New York and Boston included a gap of three hours on April 9 for ‘private time’. Flight records suggest Ms Roberts arrived in New York the same day. During the same trip, Andrew was also accused of groping Johanna Sjoberg, one of Epstein’s former sex slaves in the study of the mansion. This was alleged to be an incident in which a latex Spitting Image puppet of the Prince was also used to ‘grope’ Ms Roberts. The Duke has denied the claim and any suggestion of impropriety.

In November 2020, the MoS revealed a witness had come forward to partly corroborate the puppet story. Steve Wright, a puppeteer from Yorkshire, said the Duke told him at a Buckingham Palace reception in 2003 that his Spitting Image puppet had been bought by a friend in New York, who had used it to play a prank on him.

Glimpse: Andrew is seen waving goodbye to a brunette at the tycoon’s front door. He later said he had visited Epstein to break off their friendship in person

Mr Wright said: ‘He told me he went to an apartment in New York and saw the ‘bloody thing’ sitting up on the sofa and that he ‘nearly had a bloody heart attack’ as he was there looking at himself.’

In 2010 – nine years after the alleged encounter with Ms Roberts – Andrew was pictured peering out of the front door of Epstein’s New York mansion and waving goodbye to a pretty brunette.

The Duke told Newsnight that he had visited Epstein, by then a convicted sex offender, to break off their friendship in person.

Ms Roberts’s account of the third time she claims she was forced to have sex with Andrew is by far the most sordid, but it also raises the most troubling questions about the accuracy of her allegations.

In January 2015, according to legal testimony given under oath, Ms Roberts said she had sex with Andrew during an orgy on Little St James, Epstein’s so-called ‘Paedo Island’ in the Caribbean.

‘Epstein, Andy, approximately eight other young girls, and I had sex together, she claimed. ‘Afterwards we all had dinner by the cabanas. The other girls were chatting away among themselves and Epstein and the Prince chatted together… Prince Andrew must have flown early the next morning.’

Four years earlier, however, Ms Roberts had written the draft of a memoir which included a vivid –yet different – description of an orgy she said had taken place on Epstein’s island days after her 18th birthday in August 2001.

In that account she described having sex with a group of Russian girls while Epstein and Jean-Luc Brunel, a French model agency boss, looked on. The Prince was not mentioned.

Indeed, the memoir suggests that the third alleged sexual encounter involving Andrew was not during an orgy on the island at all, but while she and the Prince were alone at Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico. 

‘My job was to entertain him endlessly, whether that meant having to bestow him my body during an erotic massage or simply take him horseback riding,’ she wrote. Ms Roberts later conceded during a legal cross-examination that her draft contained ‘some mistakes’.

Given the trauma that she endured after being groomed, trafficked and abused by Epstein, Ms Roberts’s supporters argue that such errors are understandable. Perhaps worryingly for Andrew, the jury who convicted Maxwell appeared to agree that testimony by sex abuse victims will not always be perfect and without contradictions.

Maxwell’s lawyers zeroed in on apparent inconsistencies in the account of ‘Jane’, one of her four victims, but the jury appeared to accept Jane’s view that ‘memory is not linear’ and she could now remember certain events that she did not previously recall.

What then are the chances that the Duke will persuade Judge Kaplan to throw out Ms Roberts’s case on Tuesday?

His legal team believe they can make a strong argument the New York court cannot hear the case because Ms Roberts lives in Australia. However, in a blow to Andrew, Judge Kaplan last week denied the Duke’s bid to halt proceedings until the issue of where Ms Roberts is ‘domiciled’ is settled.

With that gone, Mr Brettler is likely to argue that the Duke is protected from litigation under a sealed settlement agreement that Ms Roberts signed with Epstein.

‘We are not complacent or arrogant about our chances of success but we feel we are on good legal ground,’ said a source close to Andrew. The MoS understands, however, that the agreement does not name the Prince and is likely to spark a fresh round of legal wrangling, rather than immediately torpedo Ms Roberts’s case.

Should Andrew fail to persuade Judge Kaplan to dismiss the case, the so-called ‘discovery’ process, where opposing sides exchange documents and other evidence, will continue. 

Andrew and Ms Roberts would also be asked to make depositions – formal statements given under oath. Ominously for the Duke, lawyers have highlighted how the burden of proof is considerably lower in civil cases compared with criminal proceedings.

The Duke would then face two options: seek to end the case by agreeing a financial settlement – a move the court of public opinion would surely view as an admission of guilt – or continue to fight with the prospect of a potentially ruinous trial and further disgrace.

It was reported last night that Royal courtiers have discussed plans to ask Andrew to stop using his title and give up any links to charities if he loses the lawsuit. A Buckingham Palace source described The Sunday Times report as ‘speculation’, adding: ‘We would not comment on an ongoing legal matter.’

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