PM sidesteps Duke of York question
The Prime Minister has declined to offer the sex scandal hit Duke of York his public support during an interview but London Mayor Boris Johnson has expressed sympathy for the royal.
When David Cameron was asked if Andrew, who has been accused of having underage sex with a teenager, had his support he replied by saying he was not going to comment on the matter.
In an interview by the radio station LBC for Heart FM Wales, Mr Cameron said: "I'm not going to make any comment on it. Obviously, the Prince has made his own views very, very clear, and I think I'll leave it at that."
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.
She is said to have been "procured" for him by American billionaire and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who she accuses of using her as a "sex slave".
Andrew vehemently denies the allegations.
Mr Johnson has given his support to the Duke, praising his role in boosting British trade and said he had sympathy for him.
"Prince Andrew, let's be very clear, is a guy who does a huge amount of unsung, unheralded work for this country," he told LBC.
He added: "People, they go on and on about the air miles and so on, actually I have seen that guy get out there and sell this country, try and help British firms to get business around the world.
"He does a huge amount of good and a huge amount of hard work. So if you are asking me whether I have sympathy for him, of course I do."
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 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 contained in a motion filed last month in a Florida court as 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.
In a strongly-worded statement Buckingham Palace has 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.''
Leading American lawyer Alan Dershowitz who, court papers allege, also slept with Ms Roberts when she was underage, has begun legal proceedings to clear his name.
Mr Dershowitz, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School and a former member of OJ Simpson's legal team, has filed a detailed denial of the woman's claims.
The court document says the lawyer has multiple witnesses to refute the allegations and when interviewed by the US television morning show Today said: "I welcome a full investigation. I'm not trying to silence her. I've challenged her to repeat the statement to the press so that I can sue for defamation.
"I have challenged her to file rape criminal charges against me because if she does, she exposes herself to criminal prosecution."
The Guardian newspaper has reported that Mr Dershowitz has received a formal request from Ms Roberts' lawyers to produce his passport on January 19, to verify his travel over the last decade, and all photographs taken while staying or travelling with Epstein.
It is also claimed that her lawyers would "welcome" similar co-operation from the Duke.
The words of support Andrew has received from the London Mayor echo those of his former wife Sarah, Duchess of York, who has described her ex-partner as a "great man".
Sarah, 55, reportedly made the comments yesterday as she left the luxury ski chalet in Verbier in Switzerland, where she had been holidaying with Andrew, 54, and their younger daughter Eugenie.
She said: "He is the greatest man there is. It was the finest moment of my life in 1986 when I married him. He is a great man, the best man in the world."
In other developments the Daily Telegraph reported Epstein paid the legal fees of witnesses who have refused to answer direct questions about whether young girls were "provided for sex" to the Duke.
They include Nadia Marcinkova, described as "Epstein's live-in sex slave", who invoked the Fifth Amendment and stayed silent when she was asked about Andrew, according to the newspaper.
And the Daily Mail reported that court papers show Epstein went to great lengths to stop the young girls he allegedly abused from speaking to the FBI.
He reportedly tracked them down and promised to "look after" them if they did not speak.
Those who refused were harassed and warned "bad things" would happen to them, it is alleged.
Andrew flew home from Switzerland on Sunday amid the mounting controversy, but he is said to be determined to "move on and push ahead" with his work despite the scandal.
He is expected to return to Switzerland 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 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."