In 2001, financier, and later registered sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein gave the then 17-year-old Virginia Giuffre (nee Roberts) a small yellow Kodak camera. It might have been the sort of simple gift millions of teenagers would receive but the snaps that she would take with the present would, two decades later, trigger the biggest crisis in modern royal history.
Later this year, around spring time in Australia, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York's name will appear on the docket in federal court in New York where he is facing a civil sex abuse trial.
Ms Giuffre, who is now a Perth-based mother-of-three, has accused the 61-year-old royal of "rape in the first degree," alleging that she was sexually abused by the Queen's son on three occasions.
It was nearly exactly ten years ago that this current crisis started when, in late February 2011, the now defunct News of the World published a photo of Andrew walking in Central Park with Epstein, by then a convicted sex offender. A week later, the Mail on Sunday published the first interview with Ms Giuffre, reporting that the teen had "been flown across the world to be introduced to the Prince." (It has been reported that she was paid $226,000 for the interview.)
Crucially, she also produced the now notorious photo of herself with Andrew and convicted sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell. (Ms Giuffre has said of why the image was taken, "I wanted something to show my mom.")
That image could now play a central role in Andrew's case, with the revelation by the Daily Beast recently that Andrew will "continue to maintain his reservations about the authenticity" of the image at the jury trial.
Ms Giuffre says that the shot was taken in March 2001 on the first night that she met the duke and that they first had sex. Andrew, however, during his cataclysmic Newsnight interview in 2019 told host Emily Maitlis he had 'investigated' the authenticity of the image and that "Nobody can prove whether or not that photograph has been doctored but I don't recollect that photograph ever being taken."
Who was behind the camera?
In the image we can see Andrew, Ms Giuffre and a smiling Maxwell, inside the latter's home in the exclusive London suburb of Belgravia. In an uncropped version released in 2019, a blurry thumb can be seen on the right, the work of the clumsy photographer.
So who was behind the camera? Ms Giuffre has said that it was Epstein himself who took the shot.
However, Andrew told Maitlis that "I've never seen Epstein with a camera in my life" and that "it's very difficult to be able to prove it but I don't remember that photograph ever being taken."
Is that Ghislaine's house or not?
What you would think would be one of the easiest things to prove, or disprove, about the photo has never actually been checked. That is whether the layout of Maxwell's home at 69 Stanhope Mews East, actually looks like what you see in the picture. (According to Airmail, in 1994 the Metropolitan Police had investigated whether a possible brothel was being run out of that address.)
The image appears to have been taken on an upstairs floor next to what looks to be a balustrade with a window in the background. Exterior shots of the Stanhope Mews property show six-paned windows that look near-identical to the ones we can see behind Maxwell.
What has never been fully explained is why this has not been undertaken or if it has, what the conclusions might be.
Andrew claimed during his Newsnight debacle that "I don't think I ever went upstairs in Ghislaine's house" and when he was asked if he was sure, he told Maitlis: "Yeah, because the dining room and everything was on the ground floor."
Is the original photo actually in Sydney?
Perhaps the biggest, still unanswered question about the snapshot is, where is the actual physical photo?
In 2016, when Ms Giuffre was being deposed by lawyers for Maxwell she was asked about its location and said that "It's not in my possession right now" and that it was "probably in some storage boxes." She also said the image could be at her home or her in-laws' home in Sydney, saying, "I mean, there's seven boxes full of Nerf guns, my kids' toys, photos. I don't know what other documents would be in there."
She also revealed in the deposition she had previously given the image to the FBI.
However, in late January, the Daily Beast reported that a "source in Virginia Giuffre's camp" had said that "they did not know whether Giuffre still has the original of the photo, or whether the original photograph even still existed."
The man who has seen the original
The version of the image we have all seen is in fact a photo of the original and which was taken by Kiwi snapper Michael Thomas in 2011.
He has no doubts about its authenticity.
"I have always believed it was real," Thomas told news.com.au this week. "As I have said before it was just an ordinary photo you would have got from a chemist in the days of negatives. Surely if it was fake every media outlet in the world would be getting sued for using it. The fact that isn't happening, to me says everything."
In 2019 Thomas told Panorama of when he saw the infamous image, "It wasn't like she pulled the photo of Prince Andrew out, it was just in among the rest of them. They were just typical teenage snaps. There's no way that photo is fake."
The 'chubby' finger argument
In August 2019, after Epstein's suicide two stories appeared in the UK press in the same week quoting "friends" of Andrew's calling into question "inconsistencies" in the image and attempting to discredit it.
"Look at the picture. It has clearly been faked. Andrew's fingers appear quite slender, like a girl's fingers. They are also a strange shade of red," a friend of Andrew's told the Telegraph in August 2019. "His real fingers are actually much chubbier – quite small and chubby."
Meanwhile, around the same time, a source told the Evening Standard: "Look at his fingers in the photo. The duke has quite chubby fingers – they don't look right.
"Many close to the duke, who know him well, believe this is witch-hunt based on absolutely no evidence."
However, look at images of Andrew's hands and they do not immediately appear to look that different to the digits visible in the shot.
The height question
Another argument put forward to try and cast doubt on the image relies on a supposed issue with the heights of Andrew and Ms Giuffre.
In 2019, the Telegraph reported that "The Duke also believes that he is far taller in real life than he appears in the photograph, it is understood. The source pointed to a picture of Ms Roberts standing next to the model Naomi Campbell, and more recent images showing her alongside other alleged Epstein victims.
"Compare the picture against the others. The Prince is 183cm tall, while Ms Roberts seems to be of below average height," a source told the paper.
"She certainly appears to be much shorter than Naomi Campbell, who is apparently 177cm tall.
"So it's strange that she and the Duke appear to be of similar height in the alleged photo. That doesn't make a lot of sense."
However, the Daily Mail has reported that Andrew is around 182cm and Ms Giuffre is 176cm, which the photo bears out.
'Travelling clothes' and the hugging defence
Andrew himself has offered other very strange arguments which cast doubt on the picture.
"I don't believe it's a picture of me in London because … when I go out in London, I wear a suit and a tie," he said during his Newsnight outing. "That's what I would describe as … those are my travelling clothes … if I'm going overseas."
He has also claimed that "as a member of the Royal Family" he was "not one to, as it were, hug and public displays of affection are not something that I do."
Again, this is where we get to the "but" part of things. Immediately after making the hugging claim, various photos were dug out of Fleet Street's archives showing him engaging in what most people would term a "public display of affection" including hugging the Countess of Lichfield at a charity dinner, kissing a bikini-clad woman on the cheek while in the South of France in 2002, and up close and persona with American socialites Chris Von Aspen and Canadian socialite Pascale Bourbeau on two occasions in 2007.
In the wake of Andrew's Hindenburg-like Newsnight performance, Ms Giuffre was interviewed by the BBC's Panorama program. Her reaction to the claims that the image had been doctored?
"The people on the inside are going to keep coming up with these ridiculous excuses like his arm was elongated or the photo was doctored," she said. "I mean I'm calling BS on this."
The two biggest questions that must be answered
In the fight to prove or disprove the veracity of the shot, there are two key questions that would seem to go a long way to making the case either way: Does the interior shown in the image match the layout of Maxwell's former property? And where is the original photo?
With speculation swirling that Andrew might try to settle this case before it goes to trial, in this legal stoush, a picture is not simply worth a thousand words but potentially tens of millions of dollars in damages.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.