Prince Andrew: Letter suggests Duke of York met Epstein years earlier than he claimed

Aide said royal was introduced to US financier 'in the early 1990s', contradicting Andrew's account

Chris Baynes
Wednesday 20 November 2019 17:49
Prince Andrew: I stayed at convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein's house because I am 'too honorable'

A letter written by a senior aide to Prince Andrew has cast doubt on the royal’s account of his first meeting with Jeffrey Epstein.

In last week’s controversial interview with Newsnight, the Duke of York recalled being introduced to the US financier through his girlfriend in 1999.

But it has now emerged Alastair Watson, then the prince’s private secretary, wrote to The Times in 2011 saying the royal first Epstein met “in the early 1990s”.

Major Watson, a retired British Army officer who served as Andrew’s aide between 2003 and 2012, contacted the newspaper to reject reports the duke was a friend of Saif Gaddafi, son of the former Libyan dictator.

His letter added: “Finally, 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.”

Buckingham Palace dismissed the discrepancy between Prince Andrew and Major Watson’s account of the pair’s first meeting.

“The duke’s words in his interview speak for themselves,” a spokeswoman told The Independent.

During what was widely described as a “car-crash” interview with the BBC, Andrew downplayed his friendship with convicted sex offender Epstein, who he visited for four days in New York after the financier’s release from prison in 2010.

The prince insisted he had only invited Epstein to his daughter Princess Beatrice’s 18th birthday party at Windsor Castle in 2006 as a guest of Ghislaine Maxwell, the financier’s then girlfriend, and said he had stayed at the paedophile’s Manhattan mansion four years later because it was “a convenient place to stay”.

His former private secretary’s letter resurfaced on Wednesday as Barclays and BT became the latest high-profile firms to distance themselves from the duke, piling more pressure on the Queen’s second son over allegations he had sex with then-teenager Virginia Giuffre when she was underage.

A growing number of companies, universities and charities have severed ties with the royal in the wake of his interview, in which he was unrepentant about his friendship with Epstein and faced accusations he appeared unsympathetic towards the paedophile’s victims. Allegations that the duke used racist language have also emerged since the interview aired on Saturday.

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Banking giant Barclays said it “concerned about the current situation” and was reviewing its involvement with the royal’s PitchPalace technology entrepreneur scheme, while telecoms giant BT said it would only continue to back a digital skills award scheme if Andrew is dropped as patron.

Asian-focused bank Standard Chartered has joined KPMG in deciding not to renew its sponsorship of the PitchPalace scheme, while drug company AstraZeneca’s three-year partnership with the scheme, due to expire at the end of this year, looks set not be extended.

Educational charity Outward Bound Trust, of which Andrew is patron, is to hold a board meeting to discuss its relationship with the royal.

London Metropolitan University is also considering the duke’s role as its patron, while a student panel at Huddersfield University passed a motion to lobby Andrew to resign as its chancellor.

Three Australian universities have also severed ties with PitchPalace and a fourth said it was reviewing its position.

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