Content warning: This article mentions sexual assault and child sexual abuse (CSA).
Convicted sex offender Ghislaine Maxwell has spoken about her “dear friend” Prince Andrew and made new claims about a piece of evidence used against the former royal.
In an exclusive interview from her jail cell, Maxwell told journalist Daphne Barak that she feels “so bad” for the prince.
“I follow what is happening to him,” she told Barak.
According to the Sun on Sunday, the outlet that published the interview, Maxwell looked “shaken” when told Andrew’s lawyers had claimed the pair were never close.
“I accept that this friendship could not survive my conviction,” she said in response.
“He is paying such a price for the association. I consider him a dear friend. I care about him.”
The interview is the first since she was convicted of sex trafficking underage girls for convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein to abuse between 1994 and 2004, for which she was sentenced to 20 years behind bars.
It also comes as Andrew’s attempts to salvage his public image continue after he was accused of raping Virginia Giuffre during the period of time when she was a victim of Epstein. Two weeks before the case was due to begin in federal court, the prince settled the case with a reported payment of $US 12 million ($AU 19.2 million).
Though Maxwell refused to deny allegations she was in a relationship with Andrew, she now claims that one of the biggest pieces of evidence used against him is fake.
The socialite claimed the infamous image of Andrew with his arm around Giuffre, with Maxwell in the background, was forged and that the “original one” has never been produced.
“This photo is not real,” Maxwell said of the photo reportedly taken at her London home in March 2001.
“There was never an original one produced.”
According to the Sun, Maxwell wouldn’t speak further on Giuffre, telling Barak: “I don’t even want to start talking about Virginia.”
Maxwell’s new claims go against what she has previously said about the image, including a 2015 email where Epstein’s lawyer asked her whether it was real to which she replied: “It looks real. I think it is.”
When Barak questioned her about these claims, Maxwell said she had intended to say she recognised the interiors of her house.
“I don’t recognise that picture and I don’t believe it is a real picture,” Maxwell said.
“… But I have come to discover that image I don’t believe is true. And the original has never been produced because it doesn’t exist. I don’t believe that image is a true image.”
When asked to explain her response to Epstein’s lawyer, Maxwell it didn’t occur to her at the time that the image could have been created by someone.
“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?’ So you don’t question,” she said.
“[It] would never occur to me … that somebody would have created a photograph or, you know, done something with a picture … I recognised the surroundings of that photograph, nothing more than that.”
The 60-year-old went on to claim that there were “over 50 problems with the picture” that led her to believe it was fake.
When asked about reports she was romantically involved with the prince, Maxwell said she had heard “so many monstrous inaccuracies” about what happened.
“I have read and seen and heard and had reported to me so many monstrous inaccuracies that I can’t even start to pick apart all of them,” she said, adding that she would be “super-happy” to address them with Barak after her appeal.
Maxwell also spoke about the possibility her friendship with Andrew could continue in the future.
“I don’t have an expectation. People who I have been friends with — and very close friends with … I can’t think about what they will want to do or not do,” she said.
If you or someone you know is affected by issues in this article, there is support available. You can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Bravehearts on 1800 272 831, or Blue Knot on 1300 657 380 for support relating to sexual abuse.
Image: US Department of Justice
This article first appeared on OverSixty.