Duke of York to cut ties with Epstein

The Duke of York is to cut his ties with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein following ongoing controversy about their friendship.

Prince Andrew has known American financier Epstein since the early 1990s, and met him as recently as December in New York.

Epstein, 58, was accused of sex offences by a number of under-age girls and sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2008 for soliciting a minor for prostitution.

Andrew and Epstein were recently pictured walking together in New York's Central park.

Buckingham Palace would not comment on the matter today but a royal source said: "It would be fair to say that you are not going to see photos of the Duke of York with Jeffrey Epstein again."

Last week a picture emerged of the Duke with a woman at the centre of under-age sex allegations concerning Epstein.

Andrew was photographed with Virginia Roberts, who claims Epstein employed her as a masseuse but exploited her while a teenage minor.

There is no suggestion that the Duke was involved with the alleged victim but he has been strongly criticised by Republic, the anti-monarchy group, for a lack of judgment.

Republic have called for Andrew to be stripped of his role as the UK's trade envoy as a result.

The Duke has been the UK's Special Representative for International Trade and Investment since 2001, travelling around the world and at home promoting Britain's business interests.

His Private Secretary, Alastair Watson, writing in a letter published in the Times newspaper today said: "There has been widespread comment on the Duke's relationship with Jeffrey Epstein.

"The Duke has known Mr Epstein since being introduced to him in the early 1990s.

"The insinuations and innuendos that have been made in relation to the Duke are without foundation."

Mr Watson also confirmed that as part of his trade role Andrew had met Colonel Gaddafi's son - Saif, in Libya on two occasions in 2007.

Saif Gaddafi was "not a friend" of the Duke's, Mr Watson added.