High-profile names may face child abuse charges
Many people, from Prime Ministers to visiting heads of state, have been guests of the Queen at Balmoral. But only once has a Royal guest ended up in jail for procuring under-age girls for sex.
On the weekend of July 9, 1999, Prince Andrew invited Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of the disgraced tycoon Robert Maxwell, and her boyfriend, the financier Jeffrey Epstein, to stay at Craigowan Lodge in the grounds of Balmoral.
The seven-bedroomed Victorian hunting lodge is the Royal Family’s most cherished hideaway. Prince Charles and Diana spent the early days of their honeymoon at Craigowan, Andrew secretly courted Sarah Ferguson there, and Princess Anne and Timothy Laurence chose it for their wedding reception.
It was a strangely personal choice of venue but, according to one who was there, Andrew was determined that the weekend should go without a hitch.
At 7.30pm on the dot, Epstein and Ghislaine, accompanied by two friends, Fiona Folley and Erig Taylor, arrived. In contrast to Epstein’s palatial New York townhouse, Craigowan is rather shabby.
The Duke led his guests into the sitting room, dominated by two faded chintz chairs and one well-worn yellow armchair, nondescript mahogany furniture, an obscure oil seascape, and an unprepossessing red potted plant on the table.
Because it was July, not August, when she always holidays at Balmoral, the Queen was not in residence at the castle, but Craigowan is very much her private enclave.
Drinks were served with smoked salmon canapés and cheese tarts and then Andrew escorted his guests on a tour of the estate.
Meanwhile, in the dining room, staff drew the tartan curtains and arranged a vase of white daisies. The table was set with crystal glasses and simple cutlery, all in keeping with the rustic informality of the Balmoral estate which once caused Princess Diana to complain: ‘It’s as deadly as a graveyard. The atmosphere drains me to nothing.’
Dinner began with avocado, followed by salmon with green beans and new potatoes, and ended with a chocolate soufflé. The guests retired at a respectable 11pm.
The next day the Duke strode into the kitchen at 8.30am and surprised the staff having their breakfast. Even more surprisingly, he asked if he could share their breakfast. His guests, still suffering jet lag, didn’t rise until midday. That afternoon they enjoyed a picnic of chicken, potato salad and lemon tart in the grounds of the castle.
The weekend was running like clockwork but that evening the Duke visited the kitchen and found that the cook, in all innocence and as advised by the butler, had cut up the fillet of beef presented to him days before at an agricultural show.
He apparently became incandescent with rage, screaming: ‘Who was the ******* idiot who cut the meat up?’ The terrified cook fled into the pantry in tears, while the staff, accustomed to the Duke’s tantrums on virtually a daily basis, covertly exchanged knowing glances.
However, by the time the meat had been barbecued, the Duke was all smiles and full of compliments for the cook on her Victoria sponge. A source said: ‘That’s his way of apologising to you. That’s what he always does. Explode one minute and then try to take it back the next . . .’
The next morning, Sunday July 11, the Duke went down to the kitchen again at 8.30am and asked for some kedgeree.
That evening he asked for his favourite childhood dish – tomato soup with cheese soufflé on top.
For Epstein and Ghislaine the weekend had been a social triumph. No matter how rustic the accommodation, how ordinary the quilted bedspreads, they had done what hardly any British commoner, however wealthy or famous, has been able to do; spend a weekend in Her Majesty’s beloved retreat, Craigowan.
High-profile names may face child abuse charges
The American inquiry into disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein could lead to charges against businessmen, politicians and intellectuals who allegedly took part in sex sessions with his harem of under-age girls.
According to legal documents, Prince Andrew had regular massages at the Florida mansion where Epstein employed teenagers as his personal ‘sex slaves’.
The Mail on Sunday has revealed that he also flew girls to meet some of the world’s richest and most powerful men at an isolated ranch and his private Caribbean island.
There is no evidence that the Duke of York had any sexual contact with the women. But investigators from the FBI’s Crimes Against Children unit last week started to examine claims that several other men illegally had sex at the tycoon’s residences.
Witnesses in the case are expected to include Epstein’s former butler, Juan Alessi, who claims Andrew received massages, and Australian mother-of-three Virginia Roberts, who has told this newspaper that Epstein hired her at age 15 as a ‘travelling masseuse’.
She says Epstein sent her to have sex with his friends at his New Mexico ranch and on his island, Little St James. He also flew her to London for the first of what she says were three meetings with Andrew.
‘Virginia is a very credible witness and allegations also have been made against Epstein by dozens of other girls, who don’t know each other but all tell similar stories,’ a legal expert familiar with the FBI probe said.
‘In addition to Epstein, who appears to be the ringleader, the high-profile people who received sexual favours from the under-aged girls delivered by Epstein could be prosecuted.’
Epstein, 58, escaped with only 13 months in jail for child sex offences in the original case and was given an unprecedented non-prosecution agreement to protect him against future charges.
However, Florida lawyer Brad Edwards has asked a judge to annul the agreement, saying it violates legislation that forbids the government from making deals with criminals behind the victims’ backs.