The Duke of York personally denied having sex with an under-age sex slave yesterday -- in his first public statement since the Epstein scandal erupted two weeks ago.

Before British business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Prince Andrew said: "For the record I refer to events that have taken place in the last few weeks. I just wish to reiterate and to reaffirm the statements which have already been made on my behalf by Buckingham Palace."

His voice noticeably shaky, he added: "My focus is on my work and this evening's reception allows me to tell you about just a couple of the initiatives I have founded and am passionate about."

After addressing the allegations in the introduction to his speech -- an almost unprecedented step for a senior royal -- the prince made no further mention of them as he went on to talk about his work promoting entrepreneurs.

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As he left, a member of the press asked: "Will you be making a statement under oath?" The Duke refused to answer, walking past the journalists stony-faced.

The prince, 54, stepped down as a UK trade envoy four years ago and is in Switzerland in a private capacity. He hosted a Pitch@Palace event at the Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvedere, where three start-up firms presented business ideas. Those who attended were in broad support of his work promoting British business.

One boss said earlier he was surprised Prince Andrew had decided to attend.

He said: "It is a bad call for him to be here. It is just a distraction."

The prince's decision to speak out came as the woman at the centre of the allegations, Virginia Roberts, 31, issued fresh documents repeating the allegations against him in US court papers. She claimed he had sex with her on three occasions when she was 17, which is under-age in Florida, where the court papers were filed.

- Independent