Prince Andrew Denies Witnessing or Suspecting Criminal Abuse from Former Friend Jeffrey Epstein

Maria Pasquini

Prince Andrew is continuing to speak out about the sex abuse claims surrounding his former friend Jeffrey Epstein.

Less than a week after Buckingham Palace released a statement about how the Duke of York, 59, was “appalled by the recent reports of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged crimes,” the royal released a second statement.

“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,” he wrote.

“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 behavior of the sort that subsequently led to his arrest and conviction,” he wrote. “I had 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 know 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.”

In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to a felony charge of solicitation of a minor and was sentenced to 18 months in jail. After serving 13 months, he was granted work release and registered as a sex offender.

The royal added: “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 behavior.”

Jeffrey Epstein | Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock

Earlier in August, Buckingham Palace released a statement on Andrew’s behalf after new video footage emerged that appeared to show the prince at the Manhattan home of Epstein in 2010.

“The Duke of York has been appalled by the recent reports of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged crimes,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement released to PEOPLE.

“His Royal Highness deplores the exploitation of any human being and the suggestion he would condone, participate in or encourage any such behaviour is abhorrent,” the statement concluded.

Epstein, 66, died by suicide in jail, authorities confirmed on Aug. 16. The billionaire financier was discovered in cardiac arrest nearly a month after he was arrested for allegedly sex-trafficking girls as young as 14 and died in the hospital, CNN reported at the time.

(L-R) Queen Elizabeth and Prince Andrew | Duncan McGlynn/Getty Images

While vacationing with his mother Queen Elizabeth in Scotland this month, new legal documents from a 2015 defamation case — in which a woman claimed during her deposition she was groped by Andrew while he was staying at one of Epstein’s properties in 2001 — were unearthed. A palace spokesperson responded, saying, “This relates to proceedings in the United States, to which The Duke of York is not a party. Any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue.

The defamation case was brought by Virginia Giuffre, an alleged victim of Epstein, against socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who claimed to have introduced the prince to her friend Epstein, the BBC previously reported.

Buckingham Palace continues to issue strong denials that Giuffre (then Roberts) was forced to have sex with Andrew, at age 17. “It is emphatically denied that The Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts,” the statement said. “Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation.”

He first issued a denial in 2015, and a Florida judge ruled Giuffre’s claims “lurid” and “unnecessary” in April 2015.