A British news documentary questions whether police in London halted their sex trafficking investigation against Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell because of their friendship with the queen’s son.
A former U.K. prosecutor and a human rights attorney agree in a new documentary that London police probably passed on fully investigating the alleged sex trafficking crimes of Jeffrey Epstein and his associate, Ghislaine Maxwell, in the U.K. because of the pair’s close ties to Prince Andrew.
“It’s hard not to conclude that that was the case,” Harriet Wistrich, a noted human rights attorney, said in an interview with Channel 4.
The British network aired a documentary Tuesday probing the failure of the Metropolitan Police to investigate Epstein and Maxwell’s alleged abuse of at least half a dozen girls and young women within its jurisdiction over a 10-year period.
The Metropolitan Police instead left it to U.S. authorities to investigate the duo and first bring sex trafficking charges against Epstein in July 2019, a month before the American financier and convicted paedophile died by suicide. In 2020, U.S. prosecutors filed charges against Maxwell, a former British socialite and Epstein’s alleged accomplice. She is awaiting trial in New York City later this year.
Nazir Afzal, a former chief crown prosecutor for Northwest England, agreed that Epstein and Maxwell probably were treated differently than other sex-abuse suspects because of their longtime friendship with Andrew, a senior member of the royal family.
“If it were happening anywhere else, with any other people involved, there is no doubt in my mind, there would be an investigation,” said Afzal, who led landmark investigations into child sex-trafficking cases in Northwest England. “You follow the evidence. That’s always been my experience. You act without fear or favour. You undermine public confidence when you choose not to do that.”
The documentary reminded audiences that one of the most notorious allegations against Epstein and Maxwell involves the 61-year-old Andrew. They are accused of allegedly forcing Virginia Roberts Giuffre, then a 17-year-old American girl, to have sex with Andrew at Maxwell’s London townhouse in 2001. Andrew, the queen’s second son, has denied allegations he had sex with Giuffre or that he ever met her.
Wistrich, who also is the founder of the London-based Centre for Women’s Justice, said one possible concern for the Metropolitan Police in investigating Andrew is a “conflict of interest.” The police agency was in charge of Andrew’s security, and its officers escorted him to different places, meaning the officers “may have a constructive knowledge of what was going on,” Wistrich said.
Met Police authorities have denied that Prince Andrew was a consideration in whether or not they investigated Epstein and Maxwell’s alleged sex crimes. Instead, Met Police issued a statement to Channel 4, saying they determined, with advice from the Crown Prosecution Service, that any human trafficking investigation involving Epstein and Maxwell “would be largely focused on activities and relationships outside the U.K.”
“Officers therefore concluded that the MPS was not the appropriate authority to conduct enquiries in these circumstances and, in November 2016, a decision was made that this matter would not proceed to a full criminal investigation,” the Met Police said.
Afzal, a former Crown Service prosecutor, said this assertion is “nonsense.”
“We have crimes allegedly committed here in London that ought to be prosecuted here in London, or that at least should be investigated here in London,” he continued.
Since the documentary aired, Met Police have revised their stance, saying in a statement, “We will always consider any new information and will review the information sent to us from Channel 4.”
Meanwhile, it’s been reported that Andrew has resisted being questioned by U.S. prosecutors investigating Epstein and Maxwell, even though he publicly vowed in 2019 that he was willing to cooperate. Andrew also has tried to downplay his friendship with Epstein or the amount of time he spent with him and Maxwell, in statements and interviews, particularly in his disastrous 2019 interview with the BBC.
Andrew’s friendship with Maxwell goes back decades, according to reports, and she reportedly introduced him to Epstein in 1999. The documentary points out that the Duke of York was friendly enough with Epstein and Maxwell that he invited them for a hunting weekend at his mother’s Sandringham country estate in 2000 and for a visit to Balmoral, the queen’s palatial summer retreat in Scotland.
The documentary also said that Andrew was evidently close enough to Maxwell that he invited her and mutual friend, disgraced actor Kevin Spacey, who also has been investigated for sex crimes, to wander around Buckingham Palace in 2002 and to be photographed, lounging together on the thrones.
Other reports say that Andrew invited the duo to visit Windsor Castle and to attend his oldest daughter Beatrice’s lavish Victorian-themed 18th birthday in 2006.
Moreover, Andrew stayed “in close contact” with Epstein until at least late 2010, according to Channel 4 and multiple other accounts. That’s several years after the financier was first investigated in Florida for sex trafficking in 2006 and pleaded guilty to soliciting a child for prostitution in 2008. Andrew told the BBC he stayed in contact with Maxwell through the spring of 2019, just before Epstein’s arrest.
Channel 4 said its analysis found that Epstein spent a lot of time in the U.K., with flight logs showing that his private planes — a Gulfstream jet and the luxury Boeing 727 dubbed “The Lolita Express” — flew in and out of U.K. airports at least 51 times between 1997 and 2012, including into the Royal Air Force base 20 minutes from the queen’s Sandringham estate.
Overall, the documentary said it found more than a dozen claims from young women and girls who said they were targeted, trafficked, groomed, or abused in the U.K. by Epstein and Maxwell. Some of the victims provided detailed accounts of their experiences, and the evidence is contained in publicly available court documents, witness accounts and interviews, Channel 4 reported. The alleged offences include serious sexual assault and rape.
Channel 4 reported that one of Maxwell’s alleged victims in her sex trafficking case, identified in court as “minor victim no. 3,” is a U.K. citizen who will testify at Maxwell’s trial, “in an American court,” about offences that took place in the U.K.
Wistrich called the situation “quite extraordinary,” while Afzal said the Metropolitan Police should keep investigating, particularly because in the U.K., there is no statute of limitations for such serious crimes.
“On the basis of what I’ve heard, there is more than reasonable suspicion that crimes have occurred,” he said, adding, “We need a proper investigation. We cannot outsource our investigation to the FBI or the U.S. attorneys.”