In 2015, one of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, said in a federal court filing that she was forced to have sex with the prince while underage. Prince Andrew has “emphatically denied” any sexual contact with Virginia Roberts.
While the statement was intended to clarify the details of a relationship that had plagued the British prince for almost a decade, the reality is that it had ended years earlier in a dramatic chain of events, some of which have never been told before.
According to interviews with three people with direct knowledge of the events, Epstein grew irate in late February 2011 after the New York Post published a photograph of the prince walking in Central Park with Epstein in late December 2010.
On the advice of her publicist, James Henderson, the Duchess gave an interview to London’s Evening Standard in which she expressed extreme contrition for her lack of judgment by accepting the funds from Epstein. With the interview, she put a clear divide between herself and Epstein. “I abhor pedophilia,” she said, adding that she’d had no knowledge of Epstein’s alleged relationships with under-age girls when she took the money.
According to Henderson, Epstein’s reaction to Ferguson’s statement was swift and dramatic. First Henderson received what he described as a “deeply unpleasant” phone call from Epstein, who threatened Henderson with a defamation lawsuit if a statement was not issued retracting the word “pedophile.”
“It was so unpleasant that I was left slightly rattled and I saved his number so I’d never have to take a call from him again,” Henderson told CNN.
Next, the Duchess received a letter threatening legal action from an Epstein lawyer and demanding a retraction, according to Henderson. The letter was sent to Ferguson’s lawyer at Schillings in London, according to Henderson, who says he advised the Duchess not to retract her statement.
Shortly after, Epstein, who had retained the services of Los Angeles publicity firm Sitrick & Company years earlier, now turned to Sitrick for help with the situation. The head and founder of the firm, Michael Sitrick, said he in turn recommended that Epstein hire a new lawyer, the UK defamation attorney Paul Tweed.
That solution didn’t work. Sitrick ended up suing Epstein for failing to pay his bills, and Tweed eventually stopped working for him as well. Tweed told CNN that he stopped working on the matter after “my advices were not acceptable to Epstein.”
According to court documents related to Sitrick’s lawsuit against Epstein and obtained by CNN, Sitrick’s employees, in consultation with Tweed, tried to construct language to propose to Fergie that would serve as some sort of retraction by the Duchess of York.
At one point, Henderson says he was shown a draft statement that asked for a retraction of every single one of the Duchess’s comments.
Ultimately, it was all for naught. On Henderson’s advice, the Duchess never retracted her statements. Records show that in 2014 Sitrick sued Epstein for payment of more than $71,000 in unpaid bills and received a default judgment in his favor.
The Duchess had been so impressed by his tenacity in 2011 she wound up hiring him a few years later, according to Henderson.
However, the Epstein issue has continued to plague the Duke of York, especially since the Giuffre allegations became public in 2015. (A photograph of the Duke with his arm around Giuffre’s waist allegedly taken in 2001 first surfaced in Britain’s Mail on Sunday in 2011.)
Lawyers for Giuffre have asked for a meeting with the Duke to explore his relationship with Epstein. He did not answer their requests, according to Giuffre’s lawyers. Buckingham Palace reiterated its statement that Prince Andrew had never had any form of sexual contact with Giuffre.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” Giuffre Roberts told NBC. “I couldn’t believe that even royalty were involved.”
In a statement to CNN, Buckingham Palace said that “It is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation.”
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the converted amount Sarah Ferguson admitted to accepting.