With another dramatic development in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal overnight, Prince Andrew has been left “bewildered” over claims he hasn’t offered to co-operate with US police.
The senior royal is being “welcomed” to talk to US authorities after Epstein’s former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, was arrested and charged with six counts relating to the sexual abuse and trafficking of minors.
“We would welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk to us,” Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss said in a media conference overnight.
“Our doors remain open and we would like to hear from him and have the benefit of his statement.”
Andrew has previously claimed he has offered three times to be a witness in the case, but US prosecutors say he has declined their request to schedule an interview.
He has faced a global backlash over his friendship with Epstein, for whom Ms Maxwell is accused of grooming girls as young as 14.
One Epstein victim, Virginia Roberts, has claimed that she had sex with the royal on several occasions.
Prince Andrew has strongly denied the allegations and took part in a car crash TV interview where he claimed he had been at a Pizza Express restaurant on the night Ms Roberts claims they met in a London nightclub.
He has also denied any knowledge of wrongdoing by Jeffrey Epstein or Ghislaine Maxwell.
Prince Andrew has previously spoken about his fondness for Ms Maxwell, saying he had been introduced to Epstein by her.
Despite the renewed calls for him to come forward overnight, sources close to the Prince said they were “bewildered” at the comments.
The sources told several British newspapers that his legal team has “reached out” to lawyers on “a senior level” in the US in the past four weeks but say received no reply.
The source close to Andrew said: “The Duke’s team remains bewildered given that we have twice communicated with the Department of Justice in the last month and to date, we have had no response.”
Royal author Robert Jobson told the Daily Mail Andrew must now be living in fear that Maxwell will implicate him in the activities of Epstein.
“He keeps protesting his innocence, but her arrest has brought everything more sharply into focus. It is certainly a very worrying development for him,” Jobson said.
“It is obviously a cause for concern for him as nobody knows what she is going to say. She could strike a deal with prosecutors for a lesser sentence in return for implicating others.”
Ms Maxwell was arrested “without incident” in Bedford, New Hampshire at around 8.30am on Thursday, close to the home of her alleged boyfriend, Scott Borgeson.
Ms Maxwell, 58, lived with Epstein for years and was his former girlfriend. An indictment filed in a New York court showed that the charges include conspiracy to entice minors to travel in order to engage in illegal sex acts, transportation of minors for criminal sexual activity and perjury.
Ms Strauss said Ms Maxwell’s arrest was over allegations she helped Jeffrey Epstein sexually assault and abuse multiple minor girls from 1994 to 1997.
“You will recall that the indictment against Jeffrey Epstein charged Epstein with sexual abuse from 2002 through 2005,” she said in a press conference on Thursday. “This case against Ghislaine Maxwell is the prequel to the earlier case.
“Starting in 1994 until at least 1997, Maxwell had a personal and professional relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. Maxwell was among Epstein’s closest associates and helped him exploit girls who were as young as 14 years old,” she alleged.
“Maxwell played a critical role in helping Epstein to identify, befriend and groom minor victims for abuse,” she said adding that Ms Maxwell was also alleged to have participated in the abuse in some cases.
Ms Strauss alleged the pair had a “method” in which “typically” Ms Maxwell would befriend young women by taking them to the movies and shopping, encouraging them to accept Epstein’s offers of travel.
“After developing a rapport with the victims, Maxwell then tried to normalise sexual abuse with a minor victim through a process known as grooming.”
She alleged Ms Maxwell would discuss sexual topics with the women and undress in front of them, helping to put them at ease and leaving them “susceptible to sexual abuse”. This abuse included sexualised massages and sexual encounters which she “sometimes participated in” Ms Strauss alleged.
Ms Strauss alleged the couple “worked together” to entice victims to travel to Epstein’s homes in New York City, Santa Fe, New Mexico and Palm Beach, Florida. Some of the abuse is also alleged to have taken place at Maxwell’s home in London.
She “compounded her crimes by repeatedly lying under oath,” Ms Strauss alleged. “Maxwell lied because the truth as alleged, was almost unspeakable.
“Maxwell enticed minor girls, got them to trust her and then delivered them into the trap that she and Epstein had set for them,” she alleged.
“She pretended to be a woman they could trust. All the while she was setting them up to be sexually abused by Epstein and in some cases by Maxwell herself.”
A federal judge in New Hampshire ordered Ms Maxwell to be sent to New York City to face charges.
Originally published as Prince Andrew under pressure after arrest