Britain’s Prince Andrew to step down from public duties
Royal ‘willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations’
Britain’s Prince Andrew stepped down from public duties on Wednesday, saying the controversy surrounding his ill-judged association with late US financier Jeffrey Epstein had caused major disruption to the royal family’s work.
The prince, Queen Elizabeth’s second son, denies an allegation that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl procured for him by his friend Epstein, who killed himself in a US prison while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.
The scandal has escalated since the prince’s rambling explanations in a disastrous TV interview aired on Saturday left many viewers incredulous. And his apparent lack of compassion for Epstein’s victims drew widespread condemnation.
As the story dominated news headlines for a fourth day and a slew of businesses distanced themselves from organisations and charities associated with the prince, he said he would step down from public life for the time being and speak to police about Epstein.
“It has become clear to me over the last few days that the circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein has become a major disruption to my family’s work,” he said in a statement issued by Buckingham Palace.
“Therefore, I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future and she has given her permission,” he said. “Of course, I am willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required.”
The prince’s conduct has spilled over into political debate ahead of the December 12th parliamentary election. Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said there were questions to be answered, although British prime minister Boris Johnson said the monarchy was “beyond reproach”.
“I continue to unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein,” said the prince. “His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims. And I deeply sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure.”
Epstein’s victims have demanded that the prince answer questions from the US authorities investigating the late financier to tell them what he knew.
In comments broadcast last Friday during an interview with the BBC Newsnight programme the prince said that he had no recollection of ever meeting an American woman who alleges she was forced to have sex with him when she was underage.
He also said he had “let the side down” by staying with Epstein after Epstein’s conviction for paying a teenage girl for sex.
One of Epstein’s accusers Virginia Giuffre, then Roberts, has said she was forced to have sex with the prince in London, New York and on a private Caribbean island between 1999 and 2002, when she says Epstein kept her as a “sex slave”.
During the BBC Newsnight interview the prince was asked about the claim by Ms Giuffre that she had sex with him in a house in London.
“I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever,” replied the prince. – Reuters