NEW YORK (AP) — Prince Andrew offered a detailed rebuttal Saturday to claims he had sex with a woman who says she was trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein, providing an alibi for one of the alleged encounters and questioning the authenticity of a well-known photograph that shows him posing with the woman.
In a rare interview with BBC Newsnight, Andrew categorically denied having sex with the woman, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, saying, “It didn’t happen.”
He said he has “no recollection” of ever meeting her and told an interviewer there are “a number of things that are wrong” about Giuffre’s account.
Giuffre has said Epstein forced her to have sex with Andrew in 2001 when she was 17. She says Epstein flew her around the world on his private planes to have sex with powerful men, and that she had sexual encounters with Andrew in London and New York and in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened,” Andrew said.
A request for comment was sent to Giuffre’s representative. Giuffre recently challenged the British royal to speak out, telling reporters in New York, “He knows exactly what he’s done.”
“And the answer is nothing,” Andrew told BBC.
Andrew’s decision to grant the interview was seen in Britain as a high-stakes gamble in a country where the royals don’t normally talk with reporters on subjects beyond their charitable works.
The nation’s newspapers, most of which featured photos from the interview along with the pre-released excerpts on their front pages Saturday, speculated that the prince thought he had no other choice after months of tawdry headlines that threatened his ability to continue working as a royal.
“This is the gambling equivalent of betting the house on the last spin of the roulette wheel,’’ royal writer Richard Kay said in the Daily Mail. “And Andrew has put it all on black.’’
In the wide-ranging interview, Andrew suggested a photograph Giuffre produced of her posing with Andrew could have been doctored, saying he “can’t be certain” that it actually shows his hand on the woman’s side.
He said he was “at a loss to explain” the image, adding he is not given to public displays of affection. He said it also shows him wearing “traveling clothes,” noting he typically wears a suit and tie when he goes out in London, where the photograph purportedly was taken.
“I’m afraid to say that I don’t believe that photograph was taken in the way that has been suggested,” he said. “If the original was ever produced, then perhaps we might be able to solve it but I can’t.”
Confronted with details of Giuffre’s claims, Andrew insisted he was home with his children on one of the nights Giuffre claims they had sex, saying it “couldn’t have happened.” He said he specifically recalled taking his daughter to a party at a Pizza Express that afternoon.
Andrew sought to cast doubt on other parts of Giuffre’s account, including her recollection of Andrew sweating on her as they danced in a London night club.
Andrew told BBC he has a “peculiar medical condition, which is that I don’t sweat or I didn’t sweat at the time” after suffering an “overdose of adrenaline” after being shot at in the Falklands War, the 1982 conflict between Argentina and the United Kingdom.
“It was almost impossible for me to sweat,” he said.
Andrew also said he regrets not cutting ties with Epstein after the financier pleaded guilty in 2008 to soliciting a minor for prostitution in Florida under a deal that required him to serve 13 months in jail and register as a sex offender.
He saw Epstein following his release from custody in Florida and stayed at his New York mansion for several days. He said he ended his friendship with Epstein during that visit and did not have further contact with him.
“It was the wrong decision to go and see him in 2010,” Andrew said. “I kick myself for (it) on a daily basis because it was not something that was becoming of a member of the royal family.”
Epstein, who rubbed shoulders with the elite and politically powerful, killed himself this summer while awaiting trial on federal sex-trafficking charges. He had been accused of sexually abusing dozens of women.
Andrew did not rule out cooperating with the ongoing federal investigation in the United States into Epstein’s associates, saying he would follow his lawyers’ advice.
Giuffre’s lawyers have said they also want to depose Andrew.
“If push came to shove and the legal advice was to do so, then I would be duty bound to do so,” Andrew said.
Associated Press writer Danica Kirka contributed reporting from London.