Prince Andrew says he is stepping down from public duties for the foreseeable future after being engulfed in a scandal involving convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Andrew, Queen Elizabeth's second son, denies any allegation that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl procured for him by his friend Epstein, the financier who killed himself in a US prison while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
The scandal has escalated since Andrew's rambling explanations in a disastrous BBC TV interview which aired on Saturday, which left many viewers incredulous, and his apparent lack of compassion for Epstein's victims drew widespread condemnation.
Firms such as telecoms giant BT, UK bank Barclays, and at least three Australian universities are among those who have distanced themselves from Andrew following the BBC interview.
In a statement issued by Buckingham Palace on Wednesday, Andrew said it had become clear to him in recent days that his association with the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein has become a ‘major distraction’ to the royal family's work.
The prince said his mother Queen Elizabeth had given him permission to step back from royal duties.
"Therefore, I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission," he said.
He said he regretted his association with the former US businessman and that he ‘deeply sympathises’ with Epstein’s victims.
"Of course, I am willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required," he said.
Sarah Ferguson behind disastrous interview?
Reports have suggested the ‘driving force’ behind Andrew’s candid sit-down with the BBC was none other than the royal’s ex-wife and close confidante, Sarah Ferguson.
The claims came from the Daily Mail, who quoted a source saying that Fergie 'encouraged' and 'convinced' the father of her two adult daughters to share his story in a dramatic hour-long interview with the BBC.
“When the possibility of this interview arose, Sarah felt that it could be the best way of clearing his name while presenting the public with a look at the real Andrew,” the publication’s source claimed.
“The interview gave him the chance to address the negative headlines rather than leave them unanswered and present his version of events.
“Given how damaging this scandal has been in the past six months, Sarah felt Andrew needed to get ahead of the matter to give his public image a better chance of recovery.”
However, despite the duchess’ best intentions, Prince Andrew’s interview was widely labelled a ‘car crash’ for his apparent lack of sympathy for Epstein’s victims.
Epstein was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, robbing his alleged victims of a chance for their day in court. His death on August 10 in a New York prison has been ruled a suicide by the city's medical examiner.
Andrew said Epstein's suicide left many unanswered questions.
Extra reporting by AAP
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