To hell and back: Virginia Roberts has turned her life around… but fears reprisals after going public
The woman at the centre of the Prince Andrew under-age sex scandal was forced to flee her home and ‘fears for her life’, her aunt claimed last night. Virginia Roberts, 31, sparked headlines around the globe when she filed sensational court papers claiming she slept with the Prince three times, including as a juvenile of 17 under Florida law, while working as a teen ‘sex slave’ for convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Last night Virginia’s aunt Carol Roberts Kess, a devout Mormon who helped raise her, spoke for the first time to tell how terrified Virginia fled her Florida home several months ago amid fears of reprisals from billionaire Epstein and his rich and powerful friends.
‘She knew these court papers were coming out so she packed up and fled,’ Carol said. ‘She is frightened for her life. She has angered a lot of powerful and very rich people. Who knows what they could do?’
Carol, the sister of Virginia’s father Sky, said her niece is now living in a ranch ‘in the middle of nowhere’ in Colorado with her husband and three young children.
‘She doesn’t feel safe,’ retired teacher Carol added. ‘There are too many powerful people involved and she is saying things they don’t want made public.
‘Virginia was living a happy life in Florida but she packed up and left because she knew this was coming and was scared for her own life and that of her family.
‘Just before she left she told me she wouldn’t be able to contact any family members for a while – for our own safety. She said, “It’s for the best. I don’t want to put anyone in danger.”’
Carol says she has ‘no reason not to believe’ her niece’s claims she slept with Prince Andrew three times, in New York, London and the Virgin Islands– accusations the Prince vehemently denies.
And asked about claims that Virginia, who is writing a book of her story, was a fantasist out to profit from the scandal, Carol said: ‘Virginia is not a fantasist, I don’t believe this is about the money.’
Despite the headlines, little is known about the woman at the heart of the scandal. The Mail on Sunday has spoken to members of Virginia’s family and close friends and has unearthed court papers which reveal a heartbreaking tale of a ‘good Christian girl’ whose life spiralled out of control after she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by older men at a young age.
It is a cautionary saga, according to her aunt, ‘of how things can go real bad, real quickly’. ‘My niece went to hell and back,’ she said.
Virginia was born in 1983 to Sky Roberts, an odd-job man and ‘horse-loving cowboy’, and Lynn, a bank worker who already had a two-year-old son Daniel from a previous marriage. The family lived in Sacramento, California but moved to Loxahatchee in Palm Beach County, Florida, when Virginia was just four years old.
Another aunt, Kimberley Roberts, said yesterday: ‘The family wasn’t wealthy but Lynn came from money and Virginia was given a trust fund by her maternal grandmother. Lynn’s mother took the family on lavish holidays when Virginia was a child. She was brought up with good morals; respect your parents, don’t talk back, don’t drink or do drugs.’
But while Virginia’s early years on her father’s small ranch were ‘idyllic’ according to aunt Carol, everything changed when she was 12 and was molested by a family friend: ‘Sky called me one day and said that Virginia had been molested. He didn’t go into great detail but he said he needed to send Virginia to live with me. Of course I said yes immediately.’
Virginia was born in 1983 to Sky Roberts, (with his daughter, aged seven) an odd-job man and ‘horse-loving cowboy’, and Lynn, a bank worker who already had a two-year-old son Daniel from a previous marriage
Carol, who was then living in Monterey, California, added: ‘I’m a Mormon. I don’t drink, smoke or drink caffeine. Virginia needed stability. She was very quiet and had an eating disorder. She’d have a piece of lettuce and say she’d eaten. If your world feels out of control the one part of your life you can control is what you eat.’
She says Virginia was forced to leave Florida because the person who molested her lived nearby. ‘She would see him around and it freaked her out,’ her aunt said.
Carol said she didn’t know the details. ‘It was too painful for my brother to talk about,’ she said. ‘We never discussed it as a family. She came to live with me for a year. In that time the molester moved so she was eventually able to move back home.’ But when she returned to Florida, Virginia, then 13, went off the rails.
In an interview with The Mail on Sunday in 2011, Virginia said the fallout from the molestation caused her parents to temporarily split. She admitted living on the streets where she was ‘beaten up’ and slept with at least two older men in return for food: ‘I was a paedophile’s dream,’ she said.
The Mail on Sunday has now seen court papers showing transcript of a telephone conversation with lawyer in which Virginia said: ‘A close family friend has sexually abused me and I was on the streets at 13. I was picked up by a 67-year-old man who did exactly what Jeffrey did with me, abuse and violate my youthfulness and I was with him for six months.’ The Mail on Sunday has chosen not to name the man who, we believe, is now dead.
Carol said she didn’t know what happened, adding: ‘I am not saying that doesn’t make it true. I believe what Virginia says.’
Other friends from that time say Virginia sank into drug addiction. One said: ‘She smoked weed and didn’t spend a lot of time at school. Her elder brother Daniel took her to rehab aged just 15 or 16. Virginia was definitely troubled, but she wouldn’t speak about her demons with anyone – she just kept it bottled up.’
At 15, Virginia’s world changed when she met Ghislaine Maxwell, the-then girlfriend of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein. Virginia’s father was a maintenance man at Mar A Largo, Donald Trump’s luxury hotel in Palm Beach, Florida; his daughter folded towels at the pool.
Ghislaine, Virginia has said in court papers, recruited her into Epstein’s harem of young ‘masseuses’ whose primary job was to satisfy the financier’s twisted sexual fantasies. However Ghislaine, the daughter of press baron Robert Maxwell, has branded such claims against her as ‘untrue’ and ‘obvious lies’.
Family ties: A snap of Virginia Roberts, left, with her aunt Carol Kess. Carol, the sister of Virginia’s father Sky, said her niece is now living in a ranch ‘in the middle of nowhere’ in Colorado with her husband and children
An old friend of Virginia’s recalled: ‘We had our doubts about why exactly Jeffrey had picked this young girl to be his favourite masseuse, when she didn’t know much about it, especially when he started flying her around the world. But she didn’t say anything about the abuse until much later.
‘Once she’d told her boyfriend at the time the truth they then decided she shouldn’t work there any longer. But Epstein wanted her there and was used to getting his way. He lured her back and told her she wouldn’t have to do so much of the sexual stuff if she could bring in other girls from school.’ This had been Epstein’s modus operandi for years: encouraging girls to bring in more girls to feed his perverted desires. It was described by one lawyer as a ‘pyramid of sexual abuse’.
Virginia’s family say they were ‘stunned’ when they learned she had been passed around as a sex toy.
Aunt Carol said: ‘How she got seduced into Epstein’s world I don’t know. I can’t get inside Virginia’s head to know what made her vulnerable to Epstein. They were really good at what they did and they were able to accomplish what they accomplished.
‘My brother thought it was all very legitimate. When Virginia told us she’d met Prince Andrew we were thrilled. Virginia gave my Mum a copy of the picture of Andrew with his arm around her – the picture which has now been seen around the world. At the time my reaction was “Wow, how neat!” I couldn’t believe Virginia had met Prince Andrew. I was ecstatic.
‘All I would say now is that anyone – anyone – who abuses young people deserves to be prosecuted.’
While still in Epstein’s orbit, Virginia was also working at the Roadhouse Grill, a burger bar in Palm Beach, when she was accused of stealing just over £200 from her employer. However, Carol said: ‘I never even knew she worked in a burger place.’ Very soon afterwards, at the age of 19, Virginia went to Thailand to take a massage course and fell in love with Australian martial arts expert Robbie Giuffre. They wed within ten days of meeting.
Aunt Carol says: ‘She met Robbie and turned her life around.
‘It breaks my heart that I haven’t been able to speak to her since this blew up but it’s her choice.
‘She knows what she is up against, we don’t. I fear for her, but I also admire her. She’s a strong girl and she will get through this.’
Additional reporting: Peter Sheridan