Prince Andrew, Duke of York, issued a personal statement on Saturday over his past dealings with the late Jeffrey Epstein, saying that he never saw him act in any way that led to his arrest for sex crimes.
Epstein, 66, died in jail in what officials said was a suicide earlier this month, weeks after he was indicted and had pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking of dozens of underage girls. U.S. court documents filed several years ago showed that Epstein had in years past spent time with the Duke of York, Queen Elizabeth II's second son, father of Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice and ex-husband of Sarah, Duchess of York.
"It is apparent to me since the suicide of Mr. Epstein that there has been an immense amount of media speculation about so much in his life," Andrew said in his statement on Saturday, his first comments about Epstein since his death. "This is particularly the case in relation to my former association or friendship with Mr Epstein. Therefore I am eager to clarify the facts to avoid further speculation."
"I met Mr Epstein in 1999," Andrew said in his statement on Saturday. "During the time I knew him, I saw him infrequently and probably no more than only once or twice a year. I have stayed in a number of his residences. At no stage during the limited time I spent with him did I see, witness or suspect any behavior of the sort that subsequently led to his arrest and conviction."
Last week, the Daily Mail published a photo that they said showed Andrew waving to a woman from inside a New York City residence owned by Epstein. The outlet said the pic was taken in 2010, two years after Epstein pleaded guilty to charges of solicitation of prostitution from a minor in Florida, which gave him a 13-month jail sentence and forced him to register as a sex offender.
Andrew was also photographed with Epstein in New York's Central Park that year, the year he was released from jail, and after that meeting, Andrew had said the meeting was a mistake and an error of judgment, the BBC said.
"I have said previously that it was a mistake and an error to see him after his release in 2010 and I can only reiterate my regret that I was mistaken to think that what I thought I knew of him was evidently not the real person, given what we now know," Andrew said in his statement on Saturday. "I have tremendous sympathy for all those affected by his actions and behavior."
"His suicide has left many unanswered questions and I acknowledge and sympathize with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure," Andrew said in his statement. "This is a difficult time for everyone involved and I am at a loss to be able to understand or explain Mr Epstein's lifestyle. I deplore the exploitation of any human being and would not condone, participate in, or encourage any such behavior."
Andrew's personal remarks, issued by his official office, comes days after Buckingham Palace put out a statement that said, "The Duke of York has been appalled by the recent reports of Jeffrey Epstein's alleged crimes. His Royal Highness deplores the exploitation of any human being and the suggestion he would condone, participate in or encourage any such behavior is abhorrent."
In 2015, Andrew was named in court papers as part of a U.S. civil case against Epstein. One of Epstein's accusers said she was ordered to give the prince "whatever he required." At the time, Buckingham Palace said, "It is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with [the woman]. The allegations made are false and without any foundation."