The photo of Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre is not fake, according to a photographer who has handled it

Ghislaine Maxwell claimed it was 'fake' during an interview from prison

Virginia Roberts Giuffre, with a photo of herself as a teen, when she says she was abused by Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell and Prince Andrew, among others.
(Image credit: Photo by Miami Herald / Getty)

A photo of Prince Andrew with his accuser Virginia Giuffre has served as a key piece of evidence in her legal case against the royal, but Andrew suggested in his BBC Newsnight interview in 2019 that the photo could have been digitally altered.

Then, last week, Ghislaine Maxwell — who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for sex trafficking — claimed in an interview that she didn't believe the photo was genuine. 

"It is a fake," she said. "I don't believe it's real for a second, in fact I am sure it's not. There has never been an original, and further there is no photograph."

In response to these claims, a photographer who handled the picture on behalf of the Mail on Sunday when it was first published in 2011, Michael Thomas, has spoken out about it in the same publication, and unequivocally denied that the photo was faked or doctored in any way.

Michael took 39 copies of the photo when he met Virginia in February 2011 with Mail reporter Sharon Churcher. The journalist had discovered Virginia was the "Jane Doe" who filed a civil writ in Florida accusing friends of Jeffrey Epstein's - "including royalty" - of sexual exploitation against her.

"She handed me the photograph and I put it on the table in the hotel room and I copied it," Michael said about the photo, which shows Andrew with his arm around a 17-year-old Virginia, with Ghislaine Maxwell smiling in the background. The photo was taken on the night Virginia was allegedly forced to have sex with the royal.

"I think I took more than 30 frames, which is overkill for copying one photo but I didn't want to get it out of focus or get it wrong because I knew how important it was," Michael continued.

"I was holding the original photo in my hand. It was a normal 6x4 inch print that you would have got from any developer at the time.

"It looked like it was ten years old. It wasn't crisp because it had been developed in 2001. She had held on to it for ten years by the time I saw it. For Ghislaine Maxwell to come out and say it was fake is ridiculous. I held the photo. It was a normal photograph. It was a physical print. It exists. I saw it and that's what I photographed and that's what you see now."

Michael felt compelled to speak out after he heard on the radio that Ghislaine had said the photo was fake. 

"I thought, 'here we go again'. When they say it's fake, they are saying that I'm involved. They are basically accusing someone of faking it and me being party to it. It's not fake — and it never has been."

The Mail claims that the photo was taken by Jeffrey Epstein in London, using Virginia's disposal camera, before the young woman flew back to her home in Florida, where she had the photo developed at a nearby pharmacy.

Iris Goldsztajn
Iris Goldsztajn is a celebrity and royal news writer for Marie Claire. As a London-based freelance journalist, she writes about wellness, relationships, pop culture, beauty and more for the likes of InStyle, Women's Health, Bustle, Stylist and Red. Aside from her quasi-personal investment in celebs' comings and goings, Iris is especially interested in debunking diet culture and destigmatising mental health struggles. Previously, she was the associate editor for Her Campus, where she oversaw the style and beauty news sections, as well as producing gift guides, personal essays and celebrity interviews. There, she worked remotely from Los Angeles, after returning from a three-month stint as an editorial intern for in New York. As an undergraduate at the University of California, Los Angeles, she interned at goop and C California Style and served as Her Campus' national style and LGBTQ+ editor. Iris was born and raised in France by a French father and an English mother. Her Spotify Wrapped is riddled with country music and One Direction, and she can typically be found eating her body weight in cheap chocolate.