By Niamh Rowe / 4 December 2019


‘I wasn’t chained to a sink. These fancy people were my chains,’ Virginia Giuffre told BBC'S Panorama on Monday evening.

The Panorama episode initially translated as a formal reply to Prince Andrew’s diabolically arrogant and self-incriminating interview with Emily Maitlis, in which he adamantly denies ever meeting Giuffre. Consequently, the interviews are somewhat positioned as a dialogue; however, as the second interview unfolds, it solidifies our intuition that there are not two competing truths here. Rather, the more recent one offers an intricate dossier of evidence against the Prince, with the other an emotionless attempt to clear his name.

In light of Monday’s episode, each dubious statement of the Prince’s ‘honourable’ pantomime has grown murkier. His denial now directly contradicts Panorama’s revelation that Jeffrey Epstein’s association with the Duke of York was affirmed by Epstein’s right-hand-madam, Ghislaine Maxwell. The sincerity and intricacy of Giuffre’s account of her trafficking has also highlighted a gaping absence of sympathy in the Prince’s testimony, which should have been filled with recognition of Giuffre’s story and of the hundreds of other young women and girls whose lives were changed forever by Jeffrey Epstein’s systematic network of abuse. ‘Testimony’, however, is inappropriate vernacular, denoting a statement made under oath: the Prince’s bumbling, sweat-free explanation was given within the grand walls of a Buckingham Palace drawing room, with gold, marble and a glass cabinet of china plates featuring in the background, reminding us of his protected status but failing to prove that this is a man who deserves the protection he is afforded.

The number of people calling on the Prince to testify in the US is growing. Accusations have accelerated from alleging his engagement in sexual intercourse with Giuffre three times whilst she was a victim of human trafficking: five victims now claim he witnessed the ‘massages’ where young women and underage girls would go on to be abused. David Boies, the lawyer for Epstein’s victims, stated to Panorama that, ‘He was a frequent visitor. They ought to submit to an interview. They ought to talk about it.’ The episode claims subpoenas have been prepared: if the Prince sets foot in the US, he will be forced to testify in court.

The Prince’s assertion that he only acknowledged Epstein had ‘conducted himself in a manner that was unbecoming’ once the latter was behind bars, feels increasingly uncomfortable to hear in light of the Panorama’s findings concerning how crystal clear the abuse was to anyone who was present. A former housemaid confirmed that the Prince had spent ‘weeks with us’ and had ‘daily massages’. Sarah Ransome, another victim Epstein repeatedly exploited, describes how when aboard his private jet, Epstein would spontaneously engage in sexual intercourse in front of all of his guests. A man who worked next door to his Palm Beach Mansion described seeing three to four girls entering/leaving his house per day. Panorama also exposed paparazzi images of a 17-year-old Giuffre abroad with Epstein. In one image she stands alone on the side-line as Epstein entertains Naomi Campbell aboard a yacht. Epstein’s suspiciously untimely death, and therefore his absence from the investigation, requires us to redefine our Public Enemy Number One. We must now redirect our attention to those who inhabited his spaces, facilitating and even engaging in the abuse he enacted.

In 2015, Gawker published Epstein’s ‘little black book’, which had previously appeared in court proceedings. In it are hundreds of victims’ names interwoven with those of elite members of society: financiers, politicians and celebrities. Whilst no one is proposing each of Epstein’s contacts participated in, or knew of, his trafficking, the book nevertheless paints a portrait of the intricate and multifaceted circles of power and protection that orbited Epstein. Names in his book include convicted rapist Bill Crosby; Woody Allen who, aged 41, entered into a relationship with a 16 year old; Bill Clinton, who, aged 49, vehemently denied an affair with 22-year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky which was later proven, through DNA evidence, to have taken place, and Donald Trump, who famously boasted of how he likes to ‘grab ‘em by the pussy.’

Clinton’s affair birthed the seminal mantra of denial: ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman’, mirrored by Prince Andrew’s ‘I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady’. ‘That woman’ and ‘this lady’ echo one another by anonymising, supressing and, ultimately, silencing Lewinsky and Giuffre respectively. As the debate raged on over the legitimacy of Giuffre’s photograph of herself and the Prince, Panorama revealed that of the twenty photos she gave to the FBI, each was made public except the one with the Prince. This erasure aligns with the Prince’s attempts to negate Giuffre’s identity throughout his interview.

Of every contact in the book released by Gawker, however, the written call logs from 2005 and 2006 with famous television journalist Charlie Rose are among the most concerning. Epstein called Rose with five women’s names and phone numbers. Epstein describes one woman as ‘world’s most perfect assistant she used to work for Harvey Weinstein he’s lucky if he can get her.’ Rose hired three of Epstein’s ‘perfect assistants.’ Irin Carmon of New York magazine spoke to one of these women: ‘I was being offered up for abuse,’ she explained, confirming our growing suspicions. Aged 22 at the time she was offered up, she would later accuse Rose of sexual harassment.

Many contacts cited in Epstein’s book were known to shower him publicly with praise. In 2002 Trump told New York magazine that Epstein was a ‘terrific guy’, and Clinton declared him a ‘successful financier…with a keen sense of global markets and an in-depth knowledge of 21st Century science.’ However, the truth of the methods with which Epstein actually accumulated his vast wealth remains clouded with uncertainty. Despite attributing his self-made wealth to hedge funding, Wall Street expert Douglas Kass told New York magazine that ‘not one institutional trading desk, primary or secondary, had ever traded with Epstein’s firm.’ The most worrisome of the conspiracy theories is that he profited from a ‘Blackmailing Empire’: Giuffre told the Miami Herald that ‘Epstein specifically told me that the reason for him doing this was so that they would “owe him,” they would “be in his pocket,” and he would “have something on them.”’ Les Wexner, the head of Victoria’s Secret, gifted him a $77 million NYC townhouse. Prince Andrew flew over for an entire week to see him after his imprisonment. Evidently, the elite were quick to sing his praises, have his back and trivialise his ‘unbecoming’ manner.

The process of mapping culpability forces us to consider how far we must go, as Epstein’s tentacles transcend individual allegiances.

He donated $7 million to Harvard for scientific research before his 2008 guilty plea, and MIT received $800,000 over two decades.  These donations complicate the boundaries between awareness and oblivion; participation and blind complicity; guilt and innocence. Regardless of his crimes, Epstein’s donations to universities will have a positive impact on scientific research. But to consider that these elite institutions could feasibly be running on wealth procured from sex trafficking, including that of minors, and blackmail is indefensible.

Scotland Yard has decided to drop Giuffre’s charge that she was trafficked for sex with the Prince, based on the assumption that most of the evidence would be found on foreign soil. One cannot help but consider the bias that The Crown Prosecution Service may adopt whilst investigating The Crown itself. When Epstein pled guilty to procuring a 14-year-old girl for prostitution and soliciting a prostitute in 2008, he was sentenced to an extraordinarily lenient 13 months’ imprisonment with extensive work release, and was only convicted for these two crimes, despite the police having identified 36 victims. The power that facilitated and perpetuated Epstein’s abuse continued with his impotent, watered-down serving of justice. The perfect consolidation to his fairy tale of corrupted power was his alleged suicide. Dying behind federal bars before his sentence ran its course meant he perished above the law. Nonetheless, as more victims and witnesses come forward, the we increasingly learn that Epstein was not a solitary or hidden offender, and our opportunity to enact some form of justice is not lost.


Giuffre described her two years with Epstein as living in a ‘fancy cage’.

Epstein’s network has revealed the extent to which society can turn, and indeed has turned, away from diamond-encrusted abuse. There was the paparazzi who would’ve noticed a young Giuffre out of place on a billionaire’s yacht; the neighbours of his Palm Beach mansion who watched the revolving door of underage girls, and the institutions and individuals who accepted money from him: young women and girls were doubly exploited when they were asked to recruit more victims for his perverted pyramid scheme. To move forward and disentangle this network of silence, we must call key witnesses to testify, and that should start with Prince Andrew.

The ‘fancy cage’ trapped Giuffre and other victims through exploitation, manipulation, coercion and fear. We now must open up the cage by asking, primarily, who were the gatekeepers? Until we locate Maxwell justice cannot be served. Giuffre continues to suffer under invisible chains, whereas the chains that held Epstein were short-lived. His victims will now never receive the justice they deserve. The least we can do is pursue every open avenue to repair the destruction Epstein left behind, and open new avenues if we are capable, to prevent justice slipping away again. We must call upon ourselves and the elite to do better, and refuse to forget about Epstein’s accomplice, who roams free as we speak.

Words by
Niamh Rowe

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