LONDON — Buckingham Palace issued an unprecedented third denial Monday amid a spiraling scandal over a woman's claims that she was forced into underage sex with Prince Andrew and a U.S. billionaire.
The accusation against Andrew — who is also the Duke of York, Queen Elizabeth II's second son and fifth in line to the British throne — was made by an American woman in papers filed with a Florida court last week.
The claim was made in a lengthy civil lawsuit that also mentions New York financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who the woman claims forced her to have sex with prominent people — including the prince — while she was 17. The woman is identified only as "Jane Doe Number 3" in the filing but has been named in British news reports as a 30-year-old from Florida. NBC News is not naming the accuser.
Andrew, 54, has laid low since the allegations hit the press but returned to London late Sunday from a ski vacation in Switzerland. Britain's papers on Monday were splashed with the face of the prince, who in the past has distanced himself from his former friend Epstein, who served 13 months in jail beginning in 2008 for soliciting and was placed on a sex offenders register.
Buckingham Palace officials on Friday first denied "any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors" by Andrew, then issued a stronger statement Sunday: "It is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with [the woman]. The allegations made are false and without any foundation." The statements are unusual because royal spokespeople typically refrain from commenting on most media reports.
A third denial was issued on Monday after Britain's Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid, The Sun, quoted the woman's father as claiming she had met Queen Elizabeth II during a visit to London. Buckingham Palace said there is "no record" of such a meeting.
Epstein's lawyers also have shot down the recent accusations. Neither Prince Andrew nor Epstein are parties in the civil case, in which victims of Epstein are suing the U.S. government over a plea deal offered to him in his 2008 conviction.
"These are stale, rehashed allegations that lawyers are now attempting to repackage and spice up by adding the names of prominent people," said a statement issued on behalf of Epstein. "The allegations, which are outlandish on their face and discredited by the evidence, were made in a civil case in which Mr. Epstein is not a party."
However, Jane Doe Number 3 said Sunday she was "not going to be bullied back into silence" over her story.
"I am looking forward to vindicating my rights as an innocent victim and pursuing all available recourse," she said in a statement. "It appears that I am now being unjustly victimized again. These types of aggressive attacks on me are exactly the reason why sexual abuse victims typically remain silent and the reason why I did for a long time. That trend should change."
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.