As Prince Andrew grins, he holds his arm tightly around the waist of 17-year-old Virginia Roberts Giuffre inside the Belgravia house of his friend Ghislaine Maxwell, who stands just behind them.
This is the photograph from 2001 which has dogged the Prince for years. But in the bombshell Newsnight interview, he deployed a salvo of objections to hint that it may have been faked.
Ms Roberts Giuffre has accused Andrew of having sex with her on the night it was taken, after she was brought to Britain by his billionaire friend Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted paedophile who died in custody earlier this year.
This is the photograph from 2001 which has dogged the Prince for years. But in the bombshell Newsnight interview, he deployed a salvo of objections to hint that it may have been faked
The Prince has always furiously denied that he and Ms Roberts Giuffre had sex that night or at any other time.
He insisted to Emily Maitlis: ‘I have absolutely no memory of that photograph ever being taken.’
Asked if they had sex in 2001 at the London home of Ghislaine Mawell, then Epstein’s girlfriend, the Prince replied: ‘It didn’t happen.’
Maitlis went on to press him four more times on whether they had sex – or ‘any kind of sexual contact.’
Andrew replied: ‘I can absolutely categorically tell you that it never happened.’
Elsewhere he is asked if he could have had sex with ‘any young woman trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein in any of his residences’ and issues a rambling response: ‘If you’re a man it is a positive act to have sex with somebody.
‘You have to… take some sort of positive action and therefore if you try to forget it’s very difficult to try and forget a positive action and I do not remember anything.’
Prince Andrew is asked if he could have had sex with ‘any young woman trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein in any of his residences’ and issues a rambling response: ‘If you’re a man it is a positive act to have sex with somebody’
Ms Roberts Giuffre has described how the photograph – first published in The Mail on Sunday in 2011 – was taken by Epstein at the home of society hostess Ms Maxwell, his former girlfriend.
Since Epstein’s death in August, sources close to Andrew have started to spread extraordinary claims that the photograph is doctored.
Last night, Andrew seemed to echo the supposed doubts over the image’s authenticity, saying: ‘From the investigations that we’ve done, you can’t prove whether or not that photograph is faked or not because it is a photograph of a photograph of a photograph.
‘So it’s very difficult to be able to prove it but I don’t remember that photograph ever being taken.’
Andrew further called the photo into question, stating confidently: ‘I’ve never seen Epstein with a camera in my life.’
Ms Maitlis suggested Epstein had borrowed Ms Roberts Giuffre’s camera, leaving the Prince to reply: ‘Listen, I don’t remember. I don’t remember that photograph ever being taken.
‘I don’t remember going upstairs in the house because that photograph was taken upstairs and I am not entirely convinced that… we can’t be certain as to whether or not that’s my hand on her whatever it is, left side.’
Andrew questioned his clothing in the photo, which shows him dressed in dark trousers and a light blue shirt, with several buttons undone and with the sleeves adorned with cufflinks. The Duke claimed: ‘I don’t believe it’s a picture of me in London because when I would go out in London, I wear a suit and a tie.’ Yet the outfit Andrew wears in the photo was a look he favoured at the time.
A photograph was taken of the Prince in a very similar outfit at the London nightclub Chinawhite in 2000. Andrew argued he would not have placed his arm around Ms Roberts Giuffre, saying: ‘I am not one to, as it were, hug and public displays of affection are not something I do.’
But that statement seems to be contradicted by a number of photos taken over the years, including one of him dancing with a mystery blonde in St Tropez in 2007, where he is grinning at the camera as she kisses his neck.
Photographic experts have pointed out the practice of manipulating images was in its infancy when the picture was taken
Ms Maitlis asked: ‘Just to clarify, sorry, you think that photo has been faked?’ Andrew responded: ‘Nobody can prove whether or not that photograph has been doctored but I don’t recollect that photograph ever being taken.
‘So that’s the best explanation I can give you and I’m afraid to say that I don’t believe that photograph was taken in the way that has been suggested.’
Drilling down, Maitlis asked: ‘There’s a photo inside Ghislaine Maxwell’s house, Ghislaine herself in the background. Why would people not believe that you were there with her that night?’
Andrew replied: ‘They might well wish to believe it but the photograph is taken upstairs and I don’t think I ever went upstairs in Ghislaine’s house… because the dining room and everything was on the ground floor, was as you came in the hall. So I don’t remember ever going up there. I’m at a loss to explain this particular photograph.
‘If the original was ever produced, then perhaps we might be able to solve it but I can’t.’
Photographic experts have pointed out the practice of manipulating images was in its infancy when the picture was taken.
When Ms Roberts Giuffre first showed the midriff picture to The Mail on Sunday back in 2008, it was among dozens of other snaps from her travels with Epstein.
At the time, she barely registered its significance.