Prince Andrew stayed with Epstein to be honourable but has no recollection of photo with sex slave

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PRINCE Andrew stayed with paedo pal Jeffrey Epstein for “convenience” – as he sensationally insisted it was the “honourable thing to do”.

The grovelling Duke of York has apologised for his friendship with the millionaire saying he “let the side down” in an explosive BBC Newsnight interview.

In the most shocking royal TV moment since Diana spoke about her marriage, Prince Andrew opened up about the Epstein scandal

The Duke revealed that he ‘kicks himself on a daily basis’ for staying friends with US paedophile Jeffrey Epstein

He was also quizzed about Virginia Roberts – who claimed they had sex three times when she was 17 – but Andrew said he had ‘no recollection’ of meeting her

Andrew stayed close to the US tycoon after his first conviction in 2008 – but insists he no recollection of meeting Virginia Roberts, who claims they had sex three times.

The prince also told the BBC’s Emily Maitlis he stayed with Epstein in his Manhattan mansion after the paedo was released from jail for “convenience”.

He said: “It was a convenient place to stay.I mean I’ve gone through this in my mind so many times.

“At the end of the day, with a benefit of all the hindsight that one can have, it was definitely the wrong thing to do.

“But at the time I felt it was the honourable and right thing to do and I admit fully that my judgement was probably coloured by my tendency to be too honourable but that’s just the way it is.”

‘NO RECOLLECTION’

The embattled Duke of York has faced continued scrutiny over his relationship with Epstein, who hanged himself while awaiting trial for sex trafficking charges.

Ms Roberts claims she had sex with the prince aged 17 – which he strongly denies.

Andrew was infamously pictured with his arm around her at Ghislaine Maxwell’s home in London in 2001.

But he claims in the bombshell interview, which is airing tonight at 9pm, he doesn’t ever remember meeting the alleged sex slave.

Ms Maitlis asks: “She says she met you in 2001, she says she dined with you, danced with you at Tramp nightclub in London.

“She went on to have sex with you in a house in Belgravia belonging to Ghislaine Maxwell, your friend. Your response?”

“I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever”, Andrew replies.

Asked again, You dont remember meeting her, he affirms: No.

The shocking interview was given the go-ahead by Her Majesty, and interviewer Maitlis was given free rein to quiz Andrew as robustly as possible

Epstein, who wasfound hanged in jail earlier this year, had been friends with Andrew since 1999

Royal officials have cast doubt on the 2001 photo – claiming it was fakedbecause the prince has fatter fingers in real life.

The Duke was last pictured with Epstein in New York in 2010 after the hedge fund manager had been released from prison and was a registered sex offender.

He told Newsnight, which is airing tonight, how he kicks himself daily for staying pals with US paedophile Epstein.

And, in the most astonishing royal TV moment since Diana spoke about the breakdown of her and Charles marriage, Andrew admits he was wrong to keep in contact.

‘I LET THE SIDE DOWN’

Speaking inside Buckingham Palace, he told Ms Maitlis: The problem was the fact that once he had been convicted I stayed with him, and thats the bit that, as it were, I kick myself on a daily basis, because it was not something that was becoming of a member of the royal family.

We try and uphold the highest standards, and I let the side down. Simple as that.

The Duke also talks about the impact on him, Sarah Ferguson and their daughters.

Buckingham Palace has previously said: It is emphatically denied that the Duke had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation.

Andrew admitted he was wrong to keep in contact after Epstein was convicted of procuring an underage girl for prostitution

He also confessed the ordeal had been hard on ex wife Sarah Ferguson and their daughters

But he shut down questions about Roberts by claiming he can’t remember meeting her

Sources close to Andrew say he has recently felt backed into a corner by spiralling rumours and the claims made by Roberts. He began to fear it could damage his charity work if he did not address them head on.

A senior official said the decision to speak to the BBC was taken with the Queens knowledge and that Maitlis had free rein to quiz him as fiercely and robustly as possible.

A royal source close to Andrew said last night: The Duke has been facing this horrible episode for far too long.

It started back in 2011 and it has now become particularly vicious.

“Hes tried in every way he can to honestly and consistently put his case across, but it just hasnt been cutting through.”

‘COME CLEAN’

The source added: Hes had headlines about the Playboy Prince, Airmiles Andy, and the Prince and the Paedo, but nothing could be further. If there are things that he is, its not those.

Andrew became more heavily embroiled in the Epstein scandal following a 2015 US lawsuit where Roberts first claimed she had sex with the Prince.

She has since claimed the Duke should come clean about his wrongdoing and face prison, though there is no criminal investigation open into her allegations.

A media representative for Roberts yesterday said she had no comment at this time.

Royal officials have cast doubt on the 2001 photo which appears to show the Duke with his arm around Roberts. They claim his chubby fingers do not match those in the image. Ms Ghislaine has insisted she was never involved in procuring girls for sex.

Epstein was first jailed in 2008 for procuring an underage girl for prostitution. He got an 18-month sentence, during which he was able to go on work release to his office six days a week. He was released on probation after 13 months.

This July he was arrested on sex trafficking allegations. On August 10 he was found hanged at the New York Metropolitan Correctional Centre three weeks after being found unconscious with neck injuries.

Checks were not carried out on the night in question, and CCTV appeared to have malfunctioned. Officials are investigating.

The Newsnight interview will kick off from 9pm tonight on BBC Two

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