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Duke to 'push on' after sex claims

A "resilient" Duke of York will attempt to put allegations of underage sex with a teenager behind him and return to public life when he attends a conference for world and business leaders.

Andrew has faced mounting controversy after he was named in US court documents as having sex with a woman, identified in reports as Virginia Roberts, on three separate occasions when she was a minor.

Palace officials have "emphatically denied" he had sexual contact with the woman and a royal aide added that in the coming weeks the Duke will be focusing on his work promoting education, technology and enterprise.

The Duke flew home yesterday from a skiing holiday in the Swiss resort of Verbier but is expected to return to the country in a few weeks to join prime ministers, business leaders and economists at Davos, the venue for the World Economic Forum's annual meeting.

A royal aide suggested that, after the traditional New Year break, Andrew would "move on and push ahead" with his work.

The aide said: "The civil case is an ongoing process that won't end any time soon. However, since 2012 the Duke has worked very hard to establish and refocus his working priorities on education, technology and enterprise and he will carry on with that work.

"It's fair to say that the Duke of York is nothing if not resilient. He will be keen to push on with the work he's been doing in recent years."

Andrew has regularly attended Davos in recent years and usually hosts a reception for leading figures from the worlds of business and politics.

The event, which runs from January 21-24, is not listed in Andrew's official online diary but there is nothing to suggest he will not attend.

There has been speculation that he will travel to the Queen's Sandringham estate in Norfolk for talks with his mother over the crisis.

It is understood he will be spending the week quietly at his home, Royal Lodge at Windsor Great Park in Berkshire, but could still make a journey to Sandringham.

Ms Roberts, a US citizen, waived her anonymity in an interview with the Mail on Sunday in 2011, in which she claimed she had been sexually exploited by American billionaire and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein - a former friend of the Duke.

In the US court papers, she goes further and alleges that between 1999 and 2002 she "was forced to have sexual relations with this prince when she was a minor'' in London, New York and on a private Caribbean island owned by Epstein.

The accusation is reportedly contained in a motion filed in a Florida court last week which is part of a lawsuit over how federal prosecutors handled the case of Epstein, who was jailed for 18 months in 2008 for soliciting a minor for prostitution.

A photograph taken at the time of the allegations shows the Duke with his arm around the waist of Ms Roberts as the pair both smile.

Andrew was also photographed with Epstein in New York two years after the American's release from prison in 2009 and their friendship was a source of controversy.

Several newspapers have published details of interviews given by Ms Roberts in recent years, in which she discusses the three alleged encounters with the Duke.

In a strongly-worded statement, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said: "It is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts.

"The allegations made are false and without any foundation.''

Sky Roberts, the father of Ms Roberts, claimed in an interview with the Daily Mail that his daughter had met the Queen.

Mr Roberts, 58, told the newspaper: "Virginia told me a few years back that she met Prince Andrew when she went to London and she also said while they were there she met the Queen."

But a palace spokesman insisted: "There is nothing to suggest the claim is true. We have no record of such a meeting."

Meanwhile, Scotland Yard confirmed it had not received any complaint related to the case but would investigate if an allegation was made.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: ''We have not received an allegation in relation to this matter. In line with Metropolitan Police Service policy, any allegation of crime would be investigated.''

In the court papers, Epstein is accused of repeatedly abusing Ms Roberts - now said to be a married mother-of-three in her 30s - on his private jet and luxury homes in New York, New Mexico, Florida and the US Virgin Islands.

The court document says: "Epstein also sexually trafficked the then-minor Jane Doe (a name used in US legal proceedings for people with anonymity), making her available for sex to politically connected and financially powerful people.

"Epstein's purposes in 'lending' Jane Doe (along with other young girls) to such powerful people were to ingratiate himself with them for business, personal, political and financial gain, as well as to obtain potential blackmail information."

It adds: "For instance, one such powerful individual Epstein forced Jane Doe #3 to have sexual relations with was a member of the British royal family, Prince Andrew (aka Duke of York)."

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz - who represented Epstein in 2008 when he was jailed for soliciting a minor for prostitution - is also named in the court papers and describes claims he slept with Ms Roberts as being part of a pattern of "made-up stories" against prominent people.

But in a statement released through her lawyers to several newspapers, the woman hit back, saying: "These types of aggressive attacks on me are exactly the reason why sexual abuse victims typically remain silent and the reason why I did for a long time. That trend should change. I'm not going to be bullied back into silence."

Documents filed at the court in Florida further allege that Andrew was among those who made ''efforts'' to secure Epstein a favourable plea deal but this has been strongly denied by the palace.

And Mr Dershowitz told the Times: "Prince Andrew played absolutely no role in legal proceedings. I can't imagine how he could possibly have had any influence. Prosecutors would have laughed and hung up the phone on him."

The Duke has been dogged by accusations of a lack of judgment about his links with Epstein since 2011.

At the start of that year a picture emerged of the two men walking in New York's central park and soon afterwards Ms Roberts waived her anonymity and claimed in an interview with the Mail on Sunday that Epstein had exploited her while a teenage minor - a picture featuring her with Andrew was also printed.

By June 2011 it was announced that the Duke was stepping down from his role as the UK's roving business ambassador.

Andrew gave up the post following the intense scrutiny he faced over his relationships with Epstein and other controversial figures.

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