Prince Andrew's aide steps down from role over Epstein link

The aide who orchestrated Prince Andrew’s disastrous interview about his links to the convicted child sex offender Jeffrey Epstein is no longer his private secretary, it has emerged as organisations continue to sever ties with the beleaguered royal.

Amanda Thirsk, who was said to have played a key role in persuading him to agree to the BBC interview, has reportedly moved on to run his business mentoring initiative.

It comes as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) announced on Friday it had dropped Prince Andrew as its patron, with the duke also stepping down from the same role at London Metropolitan University.

The BBC confirmed it would air a damaging Panorama interview on 2 December with Virginia Giuffre, the woman who claimed she was made to have sex with Prince Andrew on three occasions including when she was 17.

Giuffre spoke to Panorama three weeks ago for an investigation the programme has been working on for months scrutinising the prince’s connections with Epstein, who killed himself in August as he awaited trial on new sex trafficking charges.

Born in Brooklyn in 1953, Jeffrey Epstein was a convicted sex offender and financier who died in jail in August 2019 while awaiting trial for the sex trafficking of minors in Florida and New York. He had previously served 13 months in jail after being convicted in 2008 of procuring an underage girl for prostitution and of soliciting a prostitute.

Epstein’s death came after unsealed documents in New York revealed the extent of his abuse of young women at his home in Palm Beach, New York and the Virgin Islands. An earlier attempt to prosecute him on similar charges had collapsed when authorities granted him an unusually generous deal to plead guilty to state prostitution charges in Florida.

Epstein made his name at the investment bank Bear Stearns before opening his own firm in 1982, managing money for clients with wealth in excess of $1bn. The business came with an intensive social schedule. Epstein positioned himself as a party figure in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, and courted the rich, famous and powerful across America and the world.

Epstein’s circle of friends and acquaintances has included Donald Trump; Bill Clinton; Prince Andrew; Leslie Wexner, founder of the company that owns the Victoria’s Secret lingerie brand; and many other prominent names in law, entertainment and politics.

Photograph: New York State Sex Offender Registry

But before the episode was ready to air, the prince agreed to do a sit-down interview with rival BBC programme Newsnight.

The interview with Emily Maitlis, during which the royal denied claims he slept with Giuffre and failed to show sympathy to Epstein’s victims, prompted an outpouring of criticism. He told the Newsnight presenter he only went to stay with Epstein in New York in 2010 after he had served jail time for child sex offences to inform the financier that he could no longer associate with him.

The interview led to his suspension from duties by the Queen. On Wednesday, after days of unrelenting pressure as a slew of companies cut ties with the duke, the monarch gave permission for Prince Andrew to “step back from public duties for the foreseeable future”. He said he would be “willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required”.

Buckingham Palace on Friday refused to comment on Thirsk’s departure from her long-standing role as the duke’s private secretary. Her position in pushing the interview is understood to have been at odds with Jason Stein, the aide who left just a fortnight after he was brought in to assist with managing the prince’s reputation.

Reports suggested Thirsk will take up a role as the chief executive of Pitch@Palace, the duke’s business mentoring initiative, where she has already served as a director since 2014. Pitch@Palace did not respond to a request by the Guardian for comment.

The RPO became the latest organisation to distance itself from Prince Andrew after its management met the royal’s office on Thursday afternoon. In a statement released on Friday, a spokesman said: “At a subsequent meeting of the RPO Board, it was decided that the orchestra should part company with its patron, with immediate effect. The RPO would like to express its gratitude to His Royal Highness for his support of the orchestra over the past 15 years.”

It followed London Metropolitan University announcing that the prince had resigned “with immediate effect” as its patron. “The University’s board of governors will consult widely, in particular with our students, about whether and how we replace the duke with any senior honorary roles,” it said.


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