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Prince Andrew’s three hours of private time in New York just as Virginia Roberts flew in to the city

Monday, April 9, 2001, saw a day of extreme weather across New York City. Lowering skies, thunder, lightning and hailstones ‘the size of dimes’, one observer noted. 

It would prove a suitably sulphurous and doom-laden backdrop to the arrival in town that lunchtime of Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, aboard British Airways Flight 175 from Heathrow.

The limousine of his choice was waiting at JFK airport to whisk His Royal Highness to Her Majesty’s Consul General’s palatial residence, just yards from Central Park. This would be the Duke’s sleeping quarters for the first night of a three-day working visit to the United States’ eastern seaboard.

Long in the planning, the official schedule went ‘like clockwork’, one of his party recalls. Alas, a royal spanner was to find its way into those works. The Duke had made a number of personal arrangements to fit around his formal duties. 

Once in Manhattan and left to his own devices, the cumulative evidence suggests it had not taken long for Andrew to put himself in a compromising situation, which has caused serious harm to his reputation.

Mystery: The Duke during his U.S. visit in April 2001. Two words which appear on the confidential and unpublished official itinerary for Prince Andrew’s working visit to New York City in 2001: ‘Private Time’ – lasting from 2.30pm to 5.30pm

An important element of that evidence, which can be revealed by the Mail today, are the two words which appear on the confidential and — until now — unpublished official itinerary which was faxed from royal offices in London to the consul general’s team four days earlier.

They indicate the Duke’s intentions for the five hours between 1.45pm, when his plane touched down at JFK, and 6.45pm, when he was to leave the Residence to go to a formal dinner.

Those two words are ‘Private Time’ — lasting from 2.30pm to 5.30pm. 

Given the date and location and the serious allegations made against him, this otherwise innocuous phrase is now loaded with significance, if not danger.

A modern-day Mephistopheles

What happened during those ‘private’ hours? The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) would certainly like to know. The whole world would like to know. It is an international cause célèbre.

The Queen’s second — and some say favourite — son had always liked the Big Apple. While often brusque with and suspicious of strangers, and jealous of his own hereditary status and entitlements, Andrew enjoyed escaping from the intense scrutiny, formality and protocol which surrounded him in Commonwealth countries.

But he had a particular reason to look forward to this trip: his burgeoning friendship with an obscure but extremely generous and laid-back Wall Street billionaire named Jeffrey Epstein.

Epstein happened to own the biggest townhouse in Manhattan. Covering seven floors and 28,000 square feet of the Upper East Side, the mansion’s comforts and facilities were even more extensive and considerably less stuffy — among its decor, prosthetic breasts wobbling on the bathroom walls — than those of the consul general’s Residence.

Virginia Roberts claims that the Duke had sex with her on three occasions after she had been trafficked for that purpose by Epstein, twice while she was still aged 17. Pictured: Virginia Roberts aged 16

Virginia Roberts claims that the Duke had sex with her on three occasions after she had been trafficked for that purpose by Epstein, twice while she was still aged 17. Pictured: Virginia Roberts aged 16

Five years divorced from Sarah, the Duchess of York, and nearing the end of a not undistinguished military career, this midlife Duke — aged 41 — was about to enter a new epoch, alone. With the impending retirement from the role by the Duke of Kent, Andrew had been anointed by his mother to become the UK’s next Special Representative for International Trade and Investment.

Sources say he felt he needed to find a mentor, well versed in what was — to him — the alien world of big business; someone outside the Buckingham Palace ‘“yes, sir, no sir,” bubble’, as one acquaintance describes it.

What he got was not a guide, but a modern-day Mephistopheles.

It would be an understatement to say that his Epstein connection came back to haunt Andrew.

The relationship — and all it allegedly entailed — would eventually see the Duke banished from public life and facing demands, as he does today, to submit to Department Of Justice questioning in a sensational case which sprang from the paedophile Epstein’s voracious appetite for underage girls.

The Duke is not a suspect in their inquiries, as far as the Mail is aware, but the U.S. authorities believe he is a potentially vital witness in their investigation into Epstein and others’ criminal activities.

Epstein would be jailed in 2008 after admitting he had procured two such girls for the purpose of prostitution. Having secured a secret ‘sweetheart deal of the century’ with federal prosecutors, the financier served only 13 months, much of which was spent on day release.

But the claims of his accusers — of whom there were dozens — would not go away. The case was reopened and in July 2019 Epstein was rearrested on suspicion of further paedophile-related offences.

On August 10, 2019, while on remand in New York, he hanged himself in his prison cell. Epstein is now beyond the reach of public accusations and criminal investigation. His former friend, the Prince, is not. And in Virginia Roberts he faces one of Epstein’s abused victims and an accuser of singular determination and desire to see him brought to some kind of official account.

She claims that the Duke had sex with her on three occasions after she had been trafficked for that purpose by Epstein, twice while she was still aged 17.

The Duke of York emphatically denies having had any sexual relations with Miss Roberts or any minor. His advisers brief that he will be exonerated and able to return to public life. That remains to be seen. His stock currently remains in the basement.

But in a forensic investigation over several months, the Mail has uncovered never-before-seen documents, heard multiple new testimonies and thrown new light and detail on crucial episodes.

We have examined the gaps, contradictions and lack of recall in the Duke’s narrative as well as the consistency of Miss Roberts’ own so far widely accepted claims; not least their thus-far unexplained variances and anomalies which inevitably would be severely tested if ever presented in a court of law.

On Saturday, in the first part of this series, we examined the particulars of their first alleged encounter, in London on Saturday, March 10, 2001.

We exposed troubling questions over the Duke’s alibi for his movements that day, in particular regarding his supposed trip to drop his eldest daughter Beatrice off at a party held in the Woking branch of Pizza Express.

We also spoke to witnesses whose testimony throws new light on claims he and Miss Roberts had danced at Tramp nightclub, before returning to Ghislaine Maxwell’s Knightsbridge mews house, where an infamous picture was taken of the pair of them — a picture which the Duke’s supporters feel could be fake.

Today, we move on to their second alleged encounter, during the Duke of York’s visit to the United States in April 2001, and new findings as tantalising as they are troubling.

Only a Bentley will do for HRH

The Duke’s trip to New York that Easter Week did not concern the boosting of UK trade. He would not take up his envoy role until he formally left the Royal Navy that July. Rather he was travelling in his capacity as the chairman of trustees of the Outward Bound Trust (OBT).

This educational charity was started in 1941 by the founder of the Duke’s old boarding school, Gordonstoun. It had a significant presence in the United States.

But it would be expensive, both to the OBT and the British taxpayer. The Duke did not travel economy class. He did not travel without an entourage, which included his two-man security detail.

Confidential official papers seen by the Mail demonstrate how the visit was micro-managed.

The Duke was to be picked up at his then home, Sunninghill Park, at 10am on April 9. ‘Dress: suit’, says the itinerary, which the Mail has had sight of.

He would arrive at Heathrow at 10.35am. The BA flight would leave half an hour later. No queuing for the Duke.

Lavish: Wall Street billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s palatial New York home, the biggest townhouse in Manhattan

Lavish: Wall Street billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s palatial New York home, the biggest townhouse in Manhattan

Andrew would be accompanied on the outward leg by three followers, two of whom were Army officers. The more senior was Major General Sir Michael Hobbs, the Director of the Outward Bound Trust.

Sir Michael’s family was steeped in royal service; his grandmother had been a lady-in-waiting to Queen Mary, wife of King George V. The junior officer was Captain Richard Dilworth of the Royal Engineers. A bluff Lancastrian, Dilworth was the Duke’s personal equerry.

The third member of the party was the Duke’s senior Personal Protection Officer (PPO), a Metropolitan policeman of inspector rank whom we shall call Policeman A.

Another PPO, a sergeant — Policeman B — had flown to New York the day before to conduct the second of two ‘recces’ for the visit. Both police officers’ costs were paid for by the Metropolitan Police, confidential documents confirm.

The expenses of the Duke and Sir Michael were paid for by the charity, according to other papers we have seen.

There were other considerations.

In a fax sent to Louise Redmond, the New York Consulate General’s visits officer, a royal aide had addressed the Duke’s mode of transport while in New York. HRH wanted a suitably high-status and British — rather than American — car.

‘(Policeman B) asked if I could ascertain what car the Duke of York would like to use in New York,’ the aide wrote.

‘His Royal Highness has said the Bentley or whatever is appropriate. To that end, I would recommend that a Jaguar or similar might be appropriate but not a Lincoln Town Car.

‘Outward Bound will provide a second car and driver for (the equerry) and Sir Michael and I would be grateful if you could provide a driver for the Duke of York’s car.’

The Duke got his Bentley.

Ms Redmond was at JFK airport to greet the royal party, along with Bill Phillips, chairman of advertising giant Ogilvy and Mather and head of Outward Bound International. Mr Phillips was to be the Duke’s official host.

Pictured: Manhattan residence of Jeffrey Epstein in New York, covering seven floors and 28,000 square feet of the Upper East Side

Pictured: Manhattan residence of Jeffrey Epstein in New York, covering seven floors and 28,000 square feet of the Upper East Side

The Bentley took the Duke to the Residence at No 4, East 66th Street. His luggage and entourage followed in two other vehicles.

The sleeping arrangements — the apartment had five bedrooms including the consul general’s personal quarters — had been set out in another fax from across the Atlantic.

‘On the evening of 9th April 2001, HRH and a Personal Protection Officer will certainly be staying at the Residence,’ it stated. ‘The third room will be taken either by (Capt Dilworth) or Sir Michael. (Captain Dilworth would be the one to lose out).

‘I would be grateful if you could secure two hotel rooms locally for the two members of the Royal Party who are not staying at the Residence.

‘I wonder if it would be possible for the entire party to have breakfast at the Residence on the morning of 10th April 2001, as this will essentially be a working breakfast.’

On arrival at the Residence the Duke’s equerry busied himself with unpacking Andrew’s luggage. Meanwhile, his senior protection officer went shopping in downtown Manhattan for an Apple Mac computer with the son of the consul general, we understand he recalls.

But what of the Duke? How did he spend his designated ‘Private Time’ that afternoon and early evening?

Teenage girls on Epstein’s jet

First, we must examine another possibly significant air movement which took place that same day.

According to the logbook of one David Rodgers, Flight 1488 had taken off from Palm Beach International airport. Mr Rodgers was Epstein’s main pilot. The Gulfstream business jet he was flying that Monday belonged to the tycoon.

His logbook — about which Mr Rodgers has been questioned under oath — suggests that the passengers aboard Flight 1488 included Epstein, Virginia Roberts, a teenage girl called Banu and a young woman named ‘Joann’.

The latter would appear to be Johanna Sjoberg, then 21, who while at college in Florida had allegedly been recruited by Maxwell to work as a ‘masseuse’ for Epstein.

The logbook shows the plane landed at Atlantic City, New Jersey, then took off again — Flight 1489 — for the short hop to its final destination, Teterboro Airport, also in New Jersey.

Teterboro is a favoured New York area hub for private jet traffic. It is unclear from the available data when Flight 1488 left Palm Beach, but a typical direct flight to New York takes little more than two hours. Teterboro Airport is less than 15 miles by road from the Epstein mansion.

What happened next? As we shall see, an alleged sexual encounter bizarrely involving a Spitting Image puppet . . . of the Duke himself. 


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