Duke of York insists he never suspected paedophile Jeffrey Epstein
Andrew also expressed ‘tremendous sympathy for victims of the banker.
The Duke of York has denied he ever suspected “any behaviour of the sort” from convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Breaking his silence following a string of media reports about his alleged links to the financier, who killed himself in prison two weeks ago, Andrew released a statement expressing “tremendous sympathy” for Epstein’s victims.
He also reiterated that it was a “mistake” seeing Epstein, 66, after the American’s release from an 18-month prison term in 2010 for prostituting minors.
In a statement, Andrew said: “It is apparent to me since the suicide of Mr Epstein that there has been an immense amount of media speculation about so much in his life.
“This is particularly the case in relation to my former association or friendship with Mr Epstein.
“Therefore I am eager to clarify the facts to avoid further speculation.
“I met Mr Epstein in 1999. During the time I knew him, I saw him infrequently and probably no more than only once or twice a year. I have stayed in a number of his residences.
“At no stage during the limited time I spent with him did I see, witness or suspect any behaviour of the sort that subsequently led to his arrest and conviction.”
Epstein was found dead on August 10 in his prison cell in New York, where he was being held on sex trafficking charges.
Since his death, there have been a number of reports about his relationship with Andrew, including that the pair travelled together on Epstein’s private jet with teenager Virginia Roberts.
Ms Roberts has claimed in court papers in Florida that she was forced to have sex with Andrew when she was aged 17, under the state’s age of consent.
Her allegations, which Andrew denies, were struck from US civil court records in 2015 after a judge said they were “immaterial and impertinent”.
Buckingham Palace has contested recent reports about Andrew’s links to Epstein, including the private jet flights, over “a number of inconsistencies”.
Andrew’s statement added: “I have said previously that it was a mistake and an error to see him after his release in 2010 and I can only reiterate my regret that I was mistaken to think that what I thought I knew of him was evidently not the real person, given what we now know.
“I have tremendous sympathy for all those affected by his actions and behaviour.
“His suicide has left many unanswered questions and I acknowledge and sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure.
“This is a difficult time for everyone involved and I am at a loss to be able to understand or explain Mr Epstein’s lifestyle.
“I deplore the exploitation of any human being and would not condone, participate in, or encourage any such behaviour.”
Andrew quit his role as UK trade envoy in 2011 after the fallout from pictures which showed him with Epstein in New York’s Central Park.
The statement has been released several days after Andrew was seen in Spain, and as other members of the royal family, including the Queen, take their annual break at Balmoral.
It is the first time Andrew himself has spoken publicly about the matter since 2015.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman previously said after Epstein’s 2019 arrest that “the suggestion he (Andrew) would condone, participate in or encourage any such behaviour is abhorrent”.