Prince Andrew says 'at no stage' did he 'see or suspect' criminal behaviour by convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein

The Duke of York has released a statement following a string of media reports linking him to Jeffrey Epstein Credit: News Syndication

The Duke of York says 'at no stage' did he 'see or suspect' criminal behaviour from convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

Breaking his silence following media reports about his friendship with the US financier who killed himself in prison two weeks ago, Andrew released a statement expressing “tremendous sympathy” for Epstein’s victims.

He said it was a “mistake” seeing Epstein, 66, after the American’s release from an 18-month prison term in 2010 for prostituting minors.

In a statement, Andrew said: “It is apparent to me since the suicide of Mr Epstein that there has been an immense amount of media speculation about so much in his life.

“This is particularly the case in relation to my former association or friendship with Mr Epstein.

“Therefore I am eager to clarify the facts to avoid further speculation.

Epstein killed himself in prison two weeks ago. Credit: AP

“I met Mr Epstein in 1999. During the time I knew him, I saw him infrequently and probably no more than only once or twice a year. I have stayed in a number of his residences.

“At no stage during the limited time I spent with him did I see, witness or suspect any behaviour of the sort that subsequently led to his arrest and conviction.

“I have said previously that it was a mistake and an error to see him after his release in 2010 and I can only reiterate my regret that I was mistaken to think that what I thought I knew of him was evidently not the real person, given what we now know.

“I have tremendous sympathy for all those affected by his actions and behaviour.

“His suicide has left many unanswered questions and I acknowledge and sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure.

“This is a difficult time for everyone involved and I am at a loss to be able to understand or explain Mr Epstein’s lifestyle. I deplore the exploitation of any human being and would not condone, participate in, or encourage any such behaviour.”

Epstein was found dead on August 10 in his prison cell in New York, where he was being held on sex trafficking charges.

Since his death, there have been a number of reports about his relationship with Andrew.

Andrew quit his role as UK trade envoy in 2011 after the fallout from pictures which showed him with Epstein in New York's Central Park.

The statement has been released several days after Andrew was seen in Spain, and as other members of the royal family, including the Queen, take their annual break at Balmoral.

It is the first time Andrew himself has spoken publicly about the matter since 2015.

Last Sunday, Buckingham Palace released a statement about the Epstein scandal, saying the Duke of York was "appalled" by the reports of Epstein’s alleged crimes.