While writing my new book, Ghislaine Maxwell: Jeffrey Epstein and America’s Most Notorious Socialite, I could not get away from that famous March 2001 photograph that has been seen around the world by many millions of people. It shows the socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who claims innocence despite now being a convicted sex trafficker of under-age girls; a then 17-year-old Virginia Roberts (now Giuffre), a victim of Maxwell and Epstein’s scheme; and Prince Andrew, who claims he wasn’t there, one arm wrapped tightly around Giuffre’s semi-naked waist.
It is an extraordinarily powerful image. Even in those rather more Mad Men times, it shocked the world when it initially surfaced, in 2011 (five years after Epstein was charged with his first crime: unlawful sex with a minor). While writing the biography I wondered time and time again, Would we really still be talking about Jeffrey Epstein, years after his death, without it?
It never seems to get old.
The picture was taken upstairs in Maxwell’s town house in Belgravia, a posh part of the West End of London, in 2001, two years after Giuffre alleges Epstein forced her to have sex with Prince Andrew for the first time. The photographer is said to have been Epstein himself.
The picture epitomizes a multitude of other sins, too.
Virginia Giuffre made her first criminal complaint about the incident to Scotland Yard in 2015. At 17, she was above the age of consent in England (which is 16). Be that as it may, the 1956 Sexual Offences Act, which was in force at the time, prohibits the procuration of a girl under the age of 21 for unlawful sexual intercourse anywhere in the world. It is a very serious offense, one which former prime minister Theresa May included in her Modern Slavery Act of 2015.
Yet Scotland Yard did nothing to investigate Prince Andrew, nor did it even visit Maxwell’s house to establish whether its internal layout agreed with the picture—this despite the fact that her address, No. 69 Stanhope Mews East, had reportedly been part of a secret 1994 investigation by London’s Metropolitan Police of a possible brothel being run from the place. Giuffre said on Twitter, “- at first the [sic] Scotland Yard told me they were going to forensically examine [Ghislaine Maxwell’s] house in London- next thing I hear … they were not allowed to pursue the investigation.”
Scotland Yard reviewed their decision in 2019, when Giuffre’s allegations were reprised following Prince Andrew’s car-crash BBC interview with Emily Maitlis, but came to the same conclusion. They said that the Metropolitan Police was “not the appropriate authority to conduct enquiries,” as it was clear that any investigation would be “largely focused on activities and relationships outside the U.K.” In other words, though the London location and participants couldn’t be more English—Prince Andrew being then the fourth in line to the throne and Ghislaine a daughter of the infamous British media baron and M.P. Robert Maxwell—it was a job for the F.B.I.
Did U.K. authorities even believe this? On behalf of the F.B.I., the U.S. Department of Justice twice made formal requests to the British Home Office under a Mutual Legal Assistance treaty to secure their help in the investigation. There is not a shred of evidence that the British government ever complied.
“Scotland Yard told me they were going to forensically examine [Ghislaine Maxwell’s] house in London- next thing I hear … they were not allowed to pursue the investigation.”
In her August 2021 civil case against Prince Andrew, Giuffre alleges that “Prince Andrew’s actions constitute sexual offences as defined in New York Penal Law … including but not limited to sexual misconduct … rape in the third degree … rape in the first degree” and a number of other forms of sexual abuse. These are serious charges in any jurisdiction. Scotland Yard reviewed the case once again last summer and once more decided not to investigate.
Prince Andrew, who vehemently denies all of Giuffre’s allegations, has recently further aggravated the mystery surrounding the photograph. In his latest legal submissions, filed in late January, the prince denies being a “close” friend of Ghislaine Maxwell’s. (Though he did admit to a friendship with Epstein, and has said he does not regret it.)
Andrew has told BBC Newsnight he always wears a suit and tie when he goes out in London. What to make, then, of the photograph, in which he is shown in a shirt—no suit, certainly no tie for this heir to the British throne—in the most private part of Maxwell’s home?
Let’s assume for a moment that the picture is somehow Photoshopped (not an allegation made by the prince’s legal team, incidentally). Where on earth did Giuffre lay her hands on that image of Andrew letting his hair down in a shirt? And why is it that no one else seems to have a copy of the original photograph from which the image was taken, to prove once and for all that the picture is a fake?
Scotland Yard, despite its sterling reputation, seems to be terribly investigation-shy where the F.B.I. has shown its vigor—admittedly after a slow start (nearly 25 years). Doubly so now that Maxwell has been found guilty in the U.S. Though she is appealing the verdict, there seems to be an abundance of material to sift through. That she herself should now be investigated in the U.K. is still not discussed, though it should be.
But Ghislaine Maxwell has been a guest at the royal estates at Balmoral and Sandringham as well as at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. While at Oxford University, she attended Balliol College with Boris Johnson, who flirted with her. She mixed, too, with the other over-privileged and notoriously ill-behaved 15 or so members of the Bullingdon Club, mostly Old Etonians who included former prime minister David Cameron.
Dame Cressida Dick, the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, was also at Balliol at the same time as Maxwell. (Before that, she was educated at the elite Oxford High School, likewise attended by Maxwell.) Dick has been vocal as to the fact that, in Britain, “no one is above the law.”
Nigel Cawthorne is a London-based journalist and the author of several books, including All the Presidents’ Women: A Sex History of the White House, David Cameron: Class Act, and Prince Andrew: Epstein, Maxwell and the Palace. His latest book, Ghislaine Maxwell: Jeffrey Epstein and America’s Most Notorious Socialite, is out now from Gibson Square