The biggest gamble of Prince Andrew’s life will either save him… or sink him: In exposing his accuser’s alleged past, even the Duke’s supporters were lamenting the absence of any sign of remorse, writes RICHARD KAY
For months, years even, the accusations have piled up against Prince Andrew, always denied by him but left unchallenged with nothing more than an apparent vow of silence.
Yet this omerta has proved to be anything but self-protective.
The prince’s reputation is in the gutter and the good name of the wider Royal Family has been soiled by the fallout.
Now, however, the gloves are off. Andrew’s adversarial American lawyers have come out fighting to confront the sexual abuse claims that have swirled about the head of the Queen’s favourite son for so long.
The question is will it work, or might their aggressive intervention risk damaging the prince even more?
Andrew’s lawyers accused Miss Roberts of only suing Andrew in the hope of securing ‘another pay day’
Anyone who calls in ‘evidence’ from a New York tabloid newspaper by way of wreaking vengeance is entitled to have their motives seriously examined.
And that is precisely what happened yesterday in the wake of the 36-page motion his legal team submitted to dismiss the civil action brought in the US courts by Virginia Roberts in which she alleges the Duke of York, 61, raped her.
Accompanying this dossier was an article that accused Miss Roberts, 38, of being a ‘money-hungry sex kitten’ and once ‘head bitch’ for paedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s sex-trafficking ring.
It included remarks from a sister of a former boyfriend of Miss Roberts who says she was asked to help recruit underage girls for Epstein.
This was certainly a dramatic change in Andrew’s strategy and women’s groups reacted with fury accusing him of ‘victim shaming’ and further evidence of the prince’s ‘appalling judgment’.
But in exposing his accuser’s alleged past, even Andrew’s supporters were lamenting the absence, once again, of any apparent sign of remorse in his eleventh hour response to her legal action.
It was that failure to offer any sympathy towards Miss Roberts, now known by her married name Giuffre, or the other women drawn into Epstein’s sordid clutches that outraged viewers after the prince’s notorious BBC Newsnight interview in November 2019.
The time for contrition, however, may be over.
This was certainly a dramatic change in Andrew’s strategy and women’s groups reacted with fury accusing him of ‘victim shaming’
The language of his US lawyers is unashamedly belligerent.
They accused Miss Roberts of only suing Andrew in the hope of securing ‘another pay day’.
Motivated by greed she had been emboldened to ‘cobble together’ a claim against him after making millions of dollars from others in similar circumstances.
In a legal memorandum to have the case dismissed, the prince’s ‘attack-dog’ attorney Andrew Brettler said: ‘For over a decade Giuffre has profited from her allegations against Epstein and others by selling stories and photographs to the Press and entering into secret agreements to resolve her claims against her alleged abusers, including Epstein and his ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell.
‘Most people could only dream of obtaining the sums of money that Giuffre has secured for herself over the years.
‘This presents a compelling motive for Giuffre to continue filing frivolous lawsuits against individuals such as Prince Andrew whose sullied reputation is only the latest collateral damage of the Epstein scandal.’
Bringing such incendiary claims into the public domain stakes out new territory for Andrew whose personal and public life has been upended by his friendship with Epstein, who killed himself in jail two years ago.
Of one thing we can be sure, the court filing which states that the duke unequivocally denies the allegations and had ‘never sexually abused or assaulted’ Miss Roberts, was signed off by Andrew.
A friend of the prince said yesterday: ‘He has stayed silent, perhaps for too long, but it is right and proper that he should be allowed to defend himself. His reputation, his life has been trashed. Enough is enough.’
Some, inevitably, will wonder if it is all too late, that in the court of public opinion the prince has already been judged and found guilty
For weeks it has at times seemed as if Andrew was running scared, he was said to have been hiding behind his mother’s skirts at Balmoral and apparently going out of his way to avoid being served with the Virginia Roberts deposition.
Hemmed in by increasingly hostile public opinion, his options to respond narrowed further.
Instead he chose the deadline for filing his defence to mark the moment he begins his fightback.
Some, inevitably, will wonder if it is all too late, that in the court of public opinion the prince has already been judged and found guilty.
Others will question the morality of impugning the reputation of Miss Roberts, who although no paragon was equally a victim of Epstein.
Certainly Andrew’s timing has not been ideal.
It does seem unfortunate that his actions are at the centre of attention at a time when the Royal Family’s focus is on the health of the Queen.
Indeed it is reminiscent of Prince Harry’s self-serving decision to go ahead with his and Meghan’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey in March when Prince Philip was in hospital and close to the end of his life.
For Andrew, there is a risk of his approach backfiring, that public reaction will mean his professional position will never be restored.
Some will question the morality of impugning the reputation of Miss Roberts, who although no paragon was equally a victim of Epstein
But he calculated that continuing to do nothing is equally hazardous and by highlighting Miss Roberts’s alleged greed he may have unearthed a compelling defence.
His friends insist that submitting the article in which her ex-boyfriend Philip Guderyon contended she was not a sex slave but rather a ‘money hungry sex kitten who flashed her cash and enjoyed the finer things in life’ was necessary.
It was to counter the inconsistencies in her ‘increasingly salacious’ accounts of her alleged sexual abuse.
‘They are not the duke’s lawyers’ comments,’ says the friend, ‘but it is perfectly legitimate to include them because the narrative cannot be owned by one individual.’
The article quoted Mr Guderyon saying that he would drive Miss Roberts to Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion: ‘She was like the head bitch.
‘She’d have like nine or ten girls she used to bring him. She never looked like she was being held captive.’
Crystal Figueroa, the sister of another former boyfriend of Miss Roberts was quoted as saying: ‘She (Roberts) would say to me, “Do you know any girls who are kind of slutty?”’
In hiring Andrew Brettler, who has represented a string of celebrities facing sexual assault charges, including the Hollywood star Armie Hammer, Andrew’s legal strategy has completely changed.
The prince, who was pictured with his arm round the bare midriff of Miss Roberts, says he has no recollection of ever meeting her
Having previously refused even to acknowledge the complaint against him – apparently convinced that it would be dropped – he was persuaded to fight the allegations tooth and nail.
The lawyer had also warned him that ignoring the court proceedings – another tactic – would do him no favours.
Instead Mr Brettler said he was prepared to turn the tables on Miss Roberts and question her ‘multiple inconsistencies’.
Miss Roberts claims she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew on three separate occasions in 2001 when she was 17; in London, New York and on Epstein’s private Caribbean island and is seeking unspecified damages that could run into millions of dollars.
The prince, who was pictured with his arm round the bare midriff of Miss Roberts, says he has no recollection of ever meeting her.
Mr Brettler does not pull his punches, accusing her of repeatedly changing her story without providing specific detail.
‘Given the laundry list of purported sexual offences Giuffre claims Prince Andrew committed against her, the utter lack of factual allegations on the topic is conspicuous,’ he says.
In exhibiting his accuser’s own dubious past, Andrew has now gambled everything on turning this increasingly unseemly saga into a battle that pitches his folly against the ‘money-grubbing’ Virginia Roberts.
The outcome is uncertain and it will certainly be unsavoury.