Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein met 'in early 1990s' newspaper letter claims

A letter has emerged which casts doubt on Prince Andrew's account of when he first became friends with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

In an interview with the BBC on Saturday, the Duke of York said he first met the financier in 1999, but a letter to The Times from the Duke's then private secretary suggests the pair knew each other from the early 1990s.

The letter, sent in 2011, was sent by Alastair Watson to address "widespread comment" about Andrew's relationship with Epstein.

"There has been widespread comment on the Duke’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein," Mr Watson wrote in 2011.

"The Duke has known Mr Epstein since being introduced to him in the early 1990s.

"The insinuations and innuendos that have been made in relation to the Duke are without foundation."

The letter appeared in The Times on March 5, 2011. Credit: The Times

Epstein killed himself in prison while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges earlier this year.

In a BBC interview aired on Saturday night, the Duke of York went into detail over his friendship with Epstein who he said he had first become friend with in 1999.

Andrew also denied allegations he had had sex with 17-year-old Virginia Giuffre who claims she was trafficked into London.

The Prince said he had taken his daughter to Pizza Express in Woking on the date in question.

Prince Andrew visited Jeffrey Epstein in New York in 2011 after he had been convicted of sex offences. Credit: PA

He also claimed he had "no recollection of meeting her" Ms Giuffre - then Virginia Roberts - or of the photo of him with his arm around her being taken, suggesting it could have been doctored.

Ms Giuffre is one of 16 women who say they were abused by paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and has previously claimed in court she was forced to have sex with Andrew.

She has previously alleged in court documents she “was forced to have sexual relations with this prince when she was a minor” in London and New York.

Prince Andrew claimed in his BBC interview he did not recall the photo with Virginia Giuffre being taken. Credit: BBC Newsnight

Later, when aged 18, she alleges they had sex again on a private Caribbean island owned by Epstein where an orgy took place.

Her allegations were struck from US civil court records in 2015 after a judge said they were “immaterial and impertinent”.

In the wake of the interview, a growing number of multi-million-pound businesses, universities and charities who have distanced themselves from Andrew.

The latest is telecoms giant BT which has warned it will only continue to back a digital skills award scheme if the Duke of York is dropped as patron.

Buckingham Palace says the Duke of York's version of events has been carefully checked and his office stands by the dates he gave in the BBC programme.