Before he settled out of court last night, Prince Andrew was set to be dealt a major blow in his US sex case thanks to Ghislaine Maxwell.
A leaked email from the prince’s friend and now convicted sex trafficker appeared to confirm the authenticity of an infamous picture of the duke standing with his arm around his accuser, Virginia Roberts.
The photograph, said to be taken in Maxwell’s London townhouse in 2001, had been questioned by Andrew and just this week his legal team had demanded Miss Roberts turn over the original.
The duke’s legal team had claimed it might be a fake, but an email obtained by the Daily Mail shows that even Maxwell, who appears in the background of the photo, believes it to be real.
In the message, sent in 2015, Maxwell says: ‘It looks real. I think it is.’
On a dramatic day of developments yesterday, it was claimed that Miss Roberts had lost the original copy of the image.
But that was disputed by her legal team, who said the hard copy was with the FBI and that Miss Roberts misplaced a CD containing a copy of the image.
The photo was set to be a key piece of evidence in her claims for battery and infliction of emotional distress against Andrew, 61, which he had denied.
The duke’s lawyers had lined up an image expert to cast doubt on the veracity of the photo.
If Miss Roberts had not produced the original, Andrew’s team could have argued copies could not be admitted as evidence as they could not be properly tested.
Not being able to rely on the photograph as proof they met would have put a sizeable dint in his accuser’s case.
But in an email exchange seen by the Mail, the picture was discussed by Maxwell and Epstein’s former lawyer, Alan Dershowitz.
On January 10, 2015, Mr Dershowitz wrote: ‘Dear G. Do you know whether the photo of Andrew and virginia is real? You are in the background.’
Eleven minutes later, Maxwell replied: ‘It looks real. I think it is.’
The timing of the exchange is significant because days earlier Miss Roberts claimed for the first time in court papers that she had been forced to have sex with both Andrew and Mr Dershowitz.
The allegation was struck out by a judge who branded it ‘impertinent’. But it caused panic for Andrew and in emails previously reported by the BBC, he contacted Maxwell at 5.50am on January 3, 2015.
The duke wrote: ‘Let me know when we can talk. Got some specific questions to ask you about Virginia Roberts.’
Maxwell replied: ‘Have some info. Call me when you have a moment.’
This is an excerpt from Daily Mail.
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