Since Prince Andrew floundered through a trainwreck BBC appearance last month, one photo has been circulated across the world's media again and again.

The infamous image shows the now 59-year-old smiling widely with his arm around the waist of a 17-year-old girl in a London townhouse in 2001.

The duke cast doubt on the photo in his disastrous interview, saying it was impossible to tell if it had been faked and questioned whether it was his hand around her waist.

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He has vehemently denied he had sex with the girl and said he had no recollection of meeting her.

In a bombshell new interview, the girl in the picture – now a 36-year-old who lives in Australia – has explained the story behind it.

Virginia Giuffre said on BBC's Panorama program on Tuesday morning the picture was taken during a two-day visit to London in March 2001 when Ms Giuffre (then Virginia Roberts) claimed to have been staying at the home of convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein's girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell.

According to Giuffre, they then went to Tramp nightclub, where she danced with the royal, who was "the most hideous dancer I'd ever seen in my life".

She said that after the club Ms Maxwell told her "we're going to go back to the townhouse now and Andrew's coming with us".

"In the car, Ghislaine tells me that I have to do for Andrew what I do for Jeffrey – and that just made me sick," Ms Giuffre told the BBC.

The duke cast doubt on the photo in his disastrous interview, saying it was impossible to tell if it had been faked and questioned whether it was his hand around her waist. Photo / Supplied
The duke cast doubt on the photo in his disastrous interview, saying it was impossible to tell if it had been faked and questioned whether it was his hand around her waist. Photo / Supplied

"I just didn't expect it from royalty. I didn't expect it from someone people look up to and admire in the royal family."

She said Ms Maxwell asked Epstein to take a picture to show her family, and she then carried out her instructions to entertain the Prince.

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Ms Giuffre claims she was then coerced into having sex with the royal.

"It didn't last very long the whole entire procedure, it was disgusting," Ms Giuffre said. "He wasn't mean or anything, he just got up and walked out."

The next morning, she said, Ms Maxwell "pats me on the back and said you made him really happy".

Virginia Roberts Giuffre speaks during an interview on the BBC Panorama programme. Photo / AP
Virginia Roberts Giuffre speaks during an interview on the BBC Panorama programme. Photo / AP

"It was a wicked time in my life," Ms Giuffre said. "It was a really scary time in my life.

"I had just been abused by a member of a royal family … yeah I wasn't chained to the sink, but these powerful people were my chains.

Giuffre gestures during an interview on the BBC Panorama programme. Photo / AP
Giuffre gestures during an interview on the BBC Panorama programme. Photo / AP

"I couldn't comprehend how in the highest level of the government powerful people were allowing this to happen. Not just allowing but participating in it."

After breaking down into tears and having to pause the interview, Ms Giuffre hit out at the Prince's assertion the photo was doctored.

Prince Andrew told BBC last month: "You can't prove whether or not that photograph is faked because it's a photograph of a photograph of a photograph.

"It's very difficult to be able to prove it, but I don't remember that photograph being taken … That's me but whether that's my hand … I have simply no recollection of the photograph ever being taken."

He added that he thought he had never been upstairs in his friend Ms Maxwell's house.

However, Ms Giuffre dismissed the Prince's comments as "ridiculous".

"I think the world is getting sick of these ridiculous excuses," she told Panorama. "It's a real photo … there's a date on the back of it from when it was printed."

Journalist Michael Thomas, who was the first to copy the photograph in 2011, is convinced the picture is genuine because he found it in the middle of a bundle of photographs.

A combo of images taken from video issued by the BBC. Photo / AP
A combo of images taken from video issued by the BBC. Photo / AP

"It wasn't like she pulled the photo of Prince Andrew out, it was just in among the rest of them," he said.

"They were just typical teenage snaps. There's no way that photo is fake".

Ms Giuffre said she reported the events of that night to London's Met Police in 2015.

This week, police have defended their decision not to investigate the claims, saying the alleged trafficking took place outside the UK jurisdiction.

Ms Giuffre, who now lives a low-key life in Cairns with her Australian husband and three children, said both she and Prince Andrew "know what happened".

"He knows what happened, I know what happened. And there's only one of us telling the truth," she said.