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Prince flies home amid new denials of sex claims

Prince Andrew cut short his skiing holiday in Switzerland last night to prepare to face fresh claims that he "sexually abused" a teenager who is now writing a book about her experiences.

Virginia Roberts, who claims to have been a 17-year-old "sex slave" to Prince Andrew's former friend Jeffrey Epstein, is also said to be considering offers to tell her story after she filed court papers claiming she was forced to have sex with the Duke of York three times.

Buckingham Palace has conceded that the legal case in which the claims surfaced "isn't going to go away" and Andrew is expected to discuss the matter with the queen, who was grim-faced when she left church at Sandringham yesterday.

The queen will give her second son her full support, but the Duke of York knows the worst may not be over, with Scotland Yard confirming that it would be duty-bound to investigate Ms Roberts's claims if she made a formal complaint.

Fresh allegations surfaced over the weekend, including a claim that Ms Roberts was paid €14,000 by Epstein, a convicted sex offender, as a "reward" for sleeping with Andrew in 2001, and that he had sex with her after she gave him an "erotic massage" in New York.

It forced Andrew into the unprecedented step of issuing a formal statement denying he had ever had sex with Ms Roberts, now 30.

Buckingham Palace said: "It is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation."

It followed two previous statements, on Friday and Saturday, which contained more general denials that Prince Andrew (54) had ever had sex with a minor. At 17, Ms Roberts was below the age of consent in Florida, where the court papers were filed.

Prince Andrew spent last week in Verbier with his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, their daughter Princess Eugenie and her friend Cressida Bonas.

He arrived back in London last night, where he was expected to telephone the queen to reassure her that Ms Roberts's claims were unfounded and to discuss what may happen next.

Ms Roberts has it made clear she will not be remaining silent. Speaking from her mother's home in Colorado, she said: "There will be a time when we explain stuff, just not this time."

The fresh claims were made in a court statement filed on December 30 as part of a legal battle by Epstein's alleged victims to challenge his 2008 plea deal.

Andrew was photographed with Epstein in New York two years after the American's release from prison in 2009, and their friendship was a source of controversy. Epstein was jailed for 18 months in 2008 for soliciting a minor for prostitution.

Irish Independent