It is one of the most notorious pictures in the world – and one that has haunted the Royal who stands at its center.
Taken late in the evening of March 10, 2001, it shows Prince Andrew with his hand around the waist of a then 17-year-old Virginia Roberts – now Giuffre – with Ghislaine Maxwell beaming to one side.
The man behind the camera is disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. That photo – which was first published by The Mail on Sunday on February 27, 2011 – came to symbolize Giuffre’s case that, having been trafficked to the UK by Epstein, she had been sexually abused by Andrew on three occasions.
The Duke of York has always vigorously denied the allegations and continues to do so, insisting the photo with which he is intimately associated has in some way been doctored.
Now, in a remarkable first interview from prison, Maxwell, 60, Andrew’s once-close friend, is attempting to come to his aid, insisting that she, too, believes the picture is a fake. ‘At this time, I no longer believe that to be a true image, and I don’t believe that it is what it appears to be,’ she says.
It is a brave statement, and at odds with what most experts, commentators, and Giuffre herself say. But Maxwell seems convinced. ‘There are so many things that are wrong with it,’ she says. ‘As soon as my appeal is over, I will be very happy to discuss it with you.’
Maxwell’s claims about the image, above, are intriguing, not least because they appear to contradict her 2015 reply to an email sent to her by Alan Dershowitz, one of the most high-profile lawyers in the United States.
In the message, Dershowitz wrote: ‘Dear G. Do you know whether the photo of Andrew and Virginia is real? You are in the background.’ Just 11 minutes later, Maxwell emailed back her response. ‘It looks real. I think it is.’
But she says now: ‘If you see a photograph and it’s a photograph of you in your home, and someone says to you, “Is that a picture of you?” you don’t question it.
It would never occur to me that somebody would have created a photograph or, you know, done something with a picture. ‘I recognized the surroundings of that photograph, nothing more than that.’
Given the chance of closer scrutiny, however, she says she now believes there are all manner of issues with the image. ‘I don’t know exactly how many points there are, but there are over 50 problems with the picture,’ she insists.
‘So I don’t believe it’s a true picture.’Giuffre said in legal documents for a 2016 defamation case that she had handed the original image to the FBI in 2011 when they visited her home in Australia, where she then lived.
It is not clear if the original was returned and she has said it might be in storage. According to documents released in the same case, two FBI agents collected 20 original photographs from Giuffre, which were understood to include the one of her with Andrew.