A US judge has ordered that “lurid” sex allegations made against Prince Andrew and which led to a major crisis for the member of the royal family, be struck from the record.
In a move that will be welcomed by the Duke of York – either privately or publicly – District Judge Kenneth Marra ruled that Virginia Roberts could not join a lawsuit against Prince Andrew’s former friend, the wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein.
“The factual details regarding with whom and where the Jane Does engaged in sexual activities are immaterial and impertinent to this central claim,” the Florida judge wrote. “These unnecessary details shall be stricken.”
Ms Roberts was one of many women who claimed to have been assaulted by Mr Epstein and she claimed he used her as a "sex slave" and ordered her to have sex with his friends and associates. She claimed to have had sex with Prince Andrew at the age of 17.
The allegations had led to a series of unprecedented interventions from Buckingham Palace and the issuing of several “emphatic denials”. On Tuesday evening, a spokesman said the latest development were being assessed and referred to earlier denials the prince had issued, including once at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
The palace said the prince had been informed of the latest news and was spending the week privately before resuming his schedule of public engagements next week
Ms Roberts had waived her right to anonymity to level a series of allegations against Mr Epstein and the prince. She and another woman, identified as Jane Doe No 4, claimed to be among dozens of women Mr Epstein is said to have sexually abused as teenagers at locations ranging from a Palm Beach mansion to a private Caribbean island.
Two women, known as Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2, are suing the US government, saying it failed to protect their rights when it entered into a plea deal with Epstein, who spent time in jail in 2008-9 for a sex offence with a minor.
Ms Roberts and the woman known as Jane Doe No 4 wanted to join a lawsuit filed by other alleged victims. But the Associated Press said the judge turned down the request. He also ordered that sensational allegations against Prince Andrew and lawyer Alan Dershowitz stricken from the court record. Mr Dershowitz had also denied the allegations.
However, the judge did not comment on whether or not he believed the claims of Ms Roberts were true. Reports said he also left open the possibility that she could appear as a witness in later legal proceedings.
Earlier this year, a US website printed details of what it says were 24 hand-written pages belonging to a diary of Ms Roberts.
The “diary” said that Mr Epstein, 62, a billionaire who in 2008 pleaded guilty to a single charge of soliciting prostitution and was handed a 18-month jail sentence, invited Ms Roberts to accompany him on a six-week trip in 2001. They flew to Paris, Spain, Morocco and then London, it is claimed.
It alleged the first time Ms Roberts met the prince was at the London home of another of Mr Epstein’s friends, and that they went to dinner and then to London’s Tramp nightclub where they had cocktails.
“He was the most incredibly hideous dancer I had ever seen,” said the diary, which then continued to detail Ms Roberts’ alleged sexual encounter with the prince later that evening.
Many of Mr Epstein’s high profile former associates, such as Bill Clinton, broke off contact with him after he was jailed, but Prince Andrew did not. His continued friendship with him was among the factors that added to the pressure for him to give up his role as Britain's trade envoy in 2011.