Away from the general election campaign, the nation has been gripped by one story this week – Prince Andrew and his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein.
Since the Duke of York sat down with the UK’s Emily Maitlis to speak about his friendship with the wealthy US financier – who was a convicted sex offender – businesses and charities have been quick to distance themselves from the senior royal.
But who was Jeffrey Epstein, the man at the centre of the story?
Who Was Jeffrey Epstein?
Jeffrey Epstein was a multi-millionaire financier, who owned a private jet, a string of properties including his own island, and an address book that listed, among others, the personal numbers of Donald Trump and Prince Andrew.
He was also a convicted paedophile who was found dead in his Manhattan prison cell in August as he awaited a federal trial for sex trafficking. A coroner later ruled the death a suicide by hanging.
The story of Epstein’s downfall spans decades and begins in the 1980s when the New Yorker built a hugely successful career as a financier, eventually forming a company that only managed the assets of individuals worth more than a billion dollars.
Mingling with, and managing the wealth of, the global elite allowed Epstein to form not only business relationships, but also friendships with people such as film director Woody Allen, then-businessman Donald Trump and former Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak.
There has been no suggestion that Epstein’s conduct was widely known or approved of by friends or business associates.
Epstein was generous – his private Boeing 727-200 jet took Bill Clinton and actors Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker on a tour of African countries in September 2002.
But behind the Champagne, parties and globe-trotting there was a far darker and seedier side to Epstein’s life. His private island in the US Virgin Islands was sometimes referred to as “Orgy Island” or the “Island of Sin”, and his private jet was dubbed the “Lolita Express”.
A 2002 quote from Trump nods to the scandal that would eventually bring Epstein to that Manhattan jail cell.
“I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy,” Trump booms from a speakerphone. “He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”
The first court case
In 2005 a 14-year-old girl said she had been paid $300 to strip and massage Epstein at his mansion in Florida. An undercover police operation was launched and a number of other underage girls came forward with similar allegations.
In a plea deal three years later, Epstein pleaded guilty to one count to procuring for prostitution an underage girl, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and became a registered sex offender.
In exchange, the US Justice Department agreed not to prosecute him on similar charges.
But Epstein’s 18 months in prison would only turn out to be 13 months, and the terms of his detention were so lenient that the man who oversaw them, then-Miami attorney Alexander Acosta, stepped down as Trump’s labour secretary earlier this month amid fresh scrutiny of the case.
While Epstein served the term, he was permitted to leave the jail to work for 12 hours a day, six days a week.
The investigation, eventually headed by the FBI, resulted in a 53-page indictment that was sealed and never publicly released.
The second court case
Epstein was arrested on July 6, 2019, on charges of sex trafficking in underage girls. He was detained as he arrived at a New Jersey airport on a private jet from Paris, where he has yet another home.
His lawyers argued that the agreement reached with federal prosecutors in 2008 disallowed the charges and said he had committed no new crimes.
Epstein pleaded not guilty to charges he abused dozens of underage girls in New York and Florida. He was denied bail by the court.
In July, he was taken to hospital for what was widely reported to be injuries to his neck. He was found dead in his cell the next month.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated Epstein’s address book contained Tony Blair’s personal phone number. His office have made clear they know of no such number ever being passed to Epstein.