Early November in the first year of the millennium and the Duke of York is on his travels again.
As so often, he is combining pleasure with royal business. On this occasion his journey has brought him to New Mexico and a wilderness so vast it makes the royal estates at Balmoral and Sandringham seem like suburban gardens in comparison.
For the next week, his home from home is Zorro Ranch; 8,000 acres of scrub and brush prairie, at the centre of which stands a hacienda-style mansion surrounded by manicured lawns and secluded lodges.
HRH was the guest of a man with whom he had only recently become acquainted. But what a beneficial friend to make — or so it seemed at the time. Zorro was but one of several fantastic properties owned by Wall Street billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.
Epstein also ‘collected’ VIP friends like the Duke who liked to enjoy his largesse, as well as a host of attractive young females — some of them very young indeed. One of these females would be the Duke of York’s companion for the duration of his visit; indeed she was to share his sleeping quarters with him.
Pictured: Prince Andrew with Virginia Roberts in early 2001
DID ANDREW MEET VIRGINIA ROBERTS AT THE RANCH?
A Floridian teenager named Virginia Roberts had been recruited by Epstein to be his sex slave. As such, she was also expected to ‘service’ some of his famous friends.
In The Billionaire’s Playboy Club — the draft memoir Miss Roberts wrote in 2011 in the hope of getting a professional book deal — she described being sent to Zorro to meet up with the Duke. For two days, she and HRH were alone together, she wrote, save for security and domestic staff. Their time was filled with horseback riding and ‘erotic massages’.
Her 140-page manuscript — the most detailed account she has given of her time with Epstein — has since become a legal exhibit.
The Zorro interlude is just one of several devastating allegations Miss Roberts has made about the Duke over the past decade.
For his part, Andrew emphatically denies ever having had sexual relations with Miss Roberts. Indeed, he says he cannot even recall having met her.
But a disastrous interview on BBC’s Newsnight last November would appear to have failed to persuade viewers of the Duke’s innocence in these matters.
Neurosurgeon, academic and senior adviser to the president of the World Bank, Dr Melanie Walker (pictured) is one of the most enigmatic figures in the Epstein story; the polar opposite in several respects, to Miss Roberts, though both were part of the tycoon’s entourage
Since then he has been effectively banished from public life, and the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) wants to question him.
A statement in June from Blackfords lawyers (on behalf of the Duke) claimed the DoJ had effectively rejected three offers of help from the Prince, and he had been advised ‘the Duke is not and had never been a ‘target’ of their criminal investigations into Epstein’ and they had sought his confidential, voluntary co-operation.
It added: ‘Unfortunately, the DoJ has reacted to the first two offers by breaching their own confidentiality rules and claiming that the Duke has offered zero co-operation. In doing so, they are perhaps seeking publicity rather than accepting the assistance proffered.’
Geoffrey S. Berman, former U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, was the target of their ire for his public statements.
There is no doubt the Duke demonstrated catastrophic misjudgment in relation to his friendship with Epstein, who killed himself last year while in prison facing paedophile sex-trafficking charges.
But was the Queen’s second son really an active member of Epstein’s paedophile cabal?
HOW ACCURATE ARE ACCUSER’S CLAIMS?
The first three parts of the Mail’s investigation into Miss Roberts’s allegations against the Duke of York have included a number of revelations that are distinctly unhelpful to his case. But we have also examined the accuracy of his accuser’s own claims.
Yesterday, we looked at the account she gave in The Billionaire’s Playboy Club manuscript of an orgy involving Epstein and a number of underage girls.
This had allegedly taken place on the tycoon’s private Caribbean island in the summer of 2001. In her memoir, Miss Roberts did not place the Duke at this extraordinary event nor any other like it. If he had indeed taken part, why would she not have mentioned it?
Zorro (pictured) was but one of several fantastic properties owned by Wall Street billionaire Jeffrey Epstein
Yet in her 2015 legal deposition, made under oath, and in various media interviews, the Duke is a central participant in an orgy which appears identical in almost every respect — date, location, dialogue, ethnicity and number of girls, language barriers, aftermath — to the one she described in her manuscript.
How does one explain this as-yet-unexplained variation in a narrative concerning a serious criminal allegation?
Today, drawing on new eyewitness evidence and documents, we will dispassionately examine what Miss Roberts has written or said about the Duke in relation to Zorro Ranch.
The variances in her account are, if anything, more peculiar. Not least because under cross-examination five years after writing her memoir Miss Roberts seemed to deny she had met Andrew at the property.
The substance of this denial is supported by a credible new eyewitness, who made a contemporaneous note that still exists.
The Mail understands he is certain the Duke had visited Zorro on only one occasion.
HRH had indeed spent some of his time there alone, except for the company of a young female member of Epstein’s circle.
But she was not Virginia Roberts, said the source. And she was by no means under the age of consent.
Pictured: Prince Andrew attending the Regimental Band of the Coldstream Guards concert at Washington Square Park in 2001
THE DUKE’S STAY ‘WITH HIS GIRLFRIEND’
On October 28, 2000, the Duke of York left London bound for New York to begin an official visit to the United States.
On November 1, he flew on to Los Angeles, where his official duties concluded three days later. According to the Court Circular, they resumed in London on November 12, when Andrew laid a wreath at the Cenotaph in Whitehall.
It is between these two dates that he spent several days at Zorro Ranch in New Mexico, sources in London told the Mail.
The estate is remote, lying some 40 miles south of Santa Fe and a similar distance east of Albuquerque. Flight logs suggest Epstein used the airports in both cities when he travelled to Zorro.
The Duke was accompanied by the same senior Personal Protection Officer (PPO) who was to stay with him at Epstein’s mansion in New York the following Easter.
The police inspector — the Duke’s bodyguard for 15 years — kept a private Filofax diary in which he recorded his daily duties and observations. He still has that Filofax, sources say.
Using this resource, the PPO recalls that the Duke stayed in one of the guest lodges at Zorro, while he was quartered in a building near the ranch entrance.
‘He knew who went in and who went out,’ says a source. ‘And for most of the time the only person who was there with the Duke, apart from the ranch’s domestic staff, was his then girlfriend, Melanie Walker.’
Other sources have claimed that the Duke and his holiday companion were just good friends and not romantically involved.
SO JUST WHO IS DR MELANIE WALKER?
Neurosurgeon, academic and senior adviser to the president of the World Bank, Dr Melanie Walker is one of the most enigmatic figures in the Epstein story; the polar opposite in several respects, to Miss Roberts, though both were part of the tycoon’s entourage.
Dr Walker is said to have met Epstein in 1992, six months after graduating from the University of Texas. He told her he could get her an audition to model for the lingerie firm Victoria’s Secret.
The company was owned by fashion magnate Les Wexner, for whom Epstein acted as financial adviser. Dr Walker moved into one of Epstein’s New York apartments. In 1999, she began to appear as a passenger on his pilot’s flight logs.
That same year, having graduated from medical school, she took up a new role as Epstein’s science adviser.
She would later join the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and became an intermediary between Epstein and the Microsoft co-founder.
But at the turn of the century Dr Walker, then 28 years old, seems to have been an important pivot in the tycoon’s burgeoning relationship with the Duke.
In June 2000, the neurosurgeon attended — according to the guest list — the ‘Dance of the Decades’ party thrown at Windsor Castle by the Queen to mark a number of royal birthday milestones, including the Duke’s 40th and Princess Anne’s 50th.
Also present were Epstein and his then girlfriend (and longstanding friend of Andrew) Ghislaine Maxwell, who is currently in a U.S. jail on remand and facing charges of perjury and abetting Epstein in his sex-offending. She denies any wrongdoing. Using his contemporaneous notes, the PPO recalls that while for most of the stay at Zorro Ranch the Duke and Dr Walker were alone — apart from security and Epstein’s resident domestic staff — Epstein and Maxwell had joined them there for ‘at least one night’.
But they were the only visitors during Andrew’s stay. The PPO is also ‘adamant’ that HRH only ever visited Zorro on that occasion, sources say. The PPO says he is sure that he never met or saw Miss Roberts during his time with the Duke.
That is not to say that she couldn’t have met the Duke when other PPOs were on duty — which remains a possibility.
However, the PPO’s recollection chimes with that of former Zorro housekeeper Deidre Stratton. She told a 2019 podcast investigation of the Epstein affair that the Duke had stayed for three days in one of the lodges at the ranch. His bodyguard slept elsewhere on the property. But the Duke had not been alone in his own three-bedroom accommodation. ‘At the time, Jeffrey supposedly had this neurosurgeon,’ Stratton claimed. ‘Quite young. Beautiful, young and brilliant and she stayed in the home with (the Duke).’
That beautiful young neurosurgeon can only have been Dr Melanie Walker, who today is an academic, physician and scientist who works at a community hospital in the U.S.
A source close to her told the Mail last night: ‘She and Andrew are friends and were at the ranch at some point in 1999 or 2000 with several other people.’
The Mail understands Dr Walker never met Miss Roberts at Zorro or on Epstein’s private island, Little St James, which she also visited, and saw nothing ‘inappropriate’ at either property.