A group of friends, laughing, were returning to Annabel’s table at the edge of the busy dance floor near midnight.

This was one of the intimate moments that regulars to the Mayfair venue know so well. After hours of dancing and food, some people take a break from the crowd to enjoy a drink and catch their breath.

This particular group was rather special — it included Prince Andrew and his wife, Sarah Ferguson. It was also important that the date was chosen. It was late February 1992 — three weeks before the couple would announce their separation.

The events that happened on the evening would be cherished by another party member for many years to come. 

American Allan Starkie met the Duchess and Duke of York for the first time. Their private lives were inextricably connected over the next four years. 

It was also his first experience of royalty and he was struck by the way other revellers would part to let the couple pass — and how everyone turned to stare at them. 

However, that wasn’t his only memory. Another memory was Andrew’s appearance. Andrew had recently turned 32. He was an officer in the Royal Navy. Starkie observed that the prince did not sweat.

Starkie recalls this week that Annabel’s was very warm and Andrew was wearing blue suits of heavy wool. 

“The night featured nearly constant dancing. I was astonished to see him return from every dance, always escorting very moist partners and yet still bone dry.

Former US intelligence officer Allan Starkie (pictured with Fergie in 1996) recalled a night full of dancing in London in which he claims the Duke of York did not sweat a drop

Allan Starkie (1996 photo with Fergie) was a US intelligence officer who recalled an evening of dancing in London where the Duke Of York didn’t sweat a drop.

Prince Andrew leaving Annabel's nightclub in Mayfair, London in 2009

Prince Andrew left Annabel’s Mayfair club in London, in 2009

“It was amazing. He didn’t appear to sweat at all, even though the rest of us perspired madly.

Starkie is a former U.S. Army intelligence Officer who has seen Starkie’s reputation being systematically destroyed by allegations of sexual assault. Starkie’s central claim is that Andrew is incapable of sweating.

Starkie is shocked by the way the prince’s life has been taken away and the privileges that it affords. He feels the need to support the man Starkie once considered friend.

He is also the first person to provide an independent view of the main plank of Prince Andrew’s defence — a defence which, it has to be said, has looked increasingly threadbare at every twist and turn of this sordid case.

Virginia Roberts, now Giuffre, Andrew’s accuser claims that she was trafficked to have three sexual encounters with him as a teenager by Jeffrey Epstein. She said she danced at Tramp in London with Andrew before the first one and was “profusely sweating” there.

Andrew denied Roberts’ allegations in a Newsnight interview. He claimed that at that time he couldn’t sweat.

He said that he had a problem with his sweating. “I have an unusual medical condition.”

After being wounded as a Falklands War helicopter pilot, he claimed that he had taken an excessive amount of adrenaline. It made it “almost impossible to sweat”.

Roberts’s lawyers now demand that the prince provide all relevant paperwork and medical records.

The request was rejected by his legal team on grounds of ‘harassing’ and’requests for confidential and private information, and irrelevant documents’.

Starkie believes that Andrew can be mitigated. 

Recalling a night filled with dancing during a particularly warm evening at nightclub Annabel's, American Allan Starkie noticed that Prince Andrew did not sweat. 'It was extraordinary,' he said (Pictured: Andrew leaving Chinawhite nightclub)

American Allan Starkie noticed Prince Andrew was not sweating after dancing all night at Annabel’s. He said, “It was amazing.” (Pictured by Andrew exiting Chinawhite nightclub). 

According to him, it was at Annabel’s first encounter that he noticed the “strange phenomenon” that, no matter how hard he works, he doesn’t perspire.

Starkie is a New York-based recruitment firm that has been incredibly successful. This makes Starkie an unlikely friend of the Duke.

John Bryan, then his business partner and self-proclaimed American “financial advisor” to the duchess of York, presented him to them in their final days together.

Bryan proposed Starkie as a Fergie consultant. Starkie had been trying to start a new life with Andrew after her separation from Andrew. They were inseparable. He rode with her and they went on many private and official overseas trips together.

Starkie founded business enterprises and was her friend when Starkie received a commission to write a book on Queen Victoria.

As the life of the Duchess spiralled out from control due to mounting debts and sex, he was the center of hers. He was there to help her cry, at least for the beginning.

Allan was, as she said once,’my best friend.

Then, in 1996, after a string of financial setbacks when his and Bryan’s construction business collapsed with debts of £10 million, which saw him held for months in a German prison on fraud charges — for which he was later exonerated — Starkie wrote an eye-opening and unsparing account of Fergie’s chaotic world.

She tried to ban the book but was unsuccessful. It is the best study yet of a monarch in crisis. The book chronicled her relationships with Bryan and other intimates, as well her spending habits and Prozac-taking despair.

He claimed that but for her two daughters, Fergie — anguished over Andrew and Bryan, and overwhelmed by the scale of her overdraft — had contemplated suicide.

Although Fergie’s relationship was destroyed by the book, he still loved Fergie and his love for Fergie.

He had kept a lot of diaries from his time at Fergie’s. To remind himself about Prince Andrew’s situation, he returned to his diaries from Fergie’s years. Starkie claims that Prince Andrew’s inability of sweating pre-dates his encounter with then-17-year-old Ms Roberts by nine years.

Starkie remembers when Bryan called him at the very last minute to let him join a group headed for Annabel’s. This was the place where Prince Charles held a certain Camilla (later Parker Bowles).

Bryan had intended to bring two German bankers into the Yorks. But they pulled out. Starkie.

Bryan’s younger brother, Pamela (known as Baby), was Bryan’s sister. They were married members of the Yorks circle. Fergie was a single blonde friend.

Starkie wrote later a detailed account of the evening in his journal. He claimed the blonde was a distraction for Andrew and Bryan who he had started an affair.

The events of that night have taken on a special meaning for Starkie as he has watched the prince's reputation systematically shredded over allegations of sexual assault, not least because central to Andrew's alibi is his claim that he is incapable of sweating (Pictured: Prince Andrew with the Queen in 2019)

 The events of that night have taken on a special meaning for Starkie as he has watched the prince’s reputation systematically shredded over allegations of sexual assault, not least because central to Andrew’s alibi is his claim that he is incapable of sweating (Pictured: Prince Andrew with the Queen in 2019) 

The group moved on to the dance floor between courses.

Starkie says that the Duchess and Prince Andrew took turns dancing, along with Baby and the blonde, while Starkie danced with all three of them.

American learnt that the prince didn’t drink alcohol. This made him curious about his lack of sweat, despite everyone around him being soaked.

There were to be more expeditions to nightclubs over the years and every time he marvelled at the same spectacle — a sweat-free Andrew.

Two years later, in spring 1994, Andrew was in command of HMS Cottesmore. He decorated his cabin in this ship with a large image of Windsor Castle.

The 625-ton ship docked at the Pool of London as part of a goodwill operation. Fergie and Starkie were invited by the Duke to visit.

He recalls that there was a ceremony with bagpipes which we all watched and then, a junior officer requested me to go below decks. Prince Andrew grabbed me behind a door, and wrestled my to the ground.

“It was funny and humorous and I didn’t want to appear obsequious so I fought back, before letting him win.”

Starkie was a West Point Military Academy graduate, and his service records included spying operations in Africa and the Middle East. “It was May, a hot day. It was cramped. My collar felt damp when I got on the floor.

What about the prince? “He was bone dry and laughing, unflappable.”

After changing out of his naval uniform — he was by then a lieutenant commander — Andrew, Fergie and Starkie headed once again for Annabel’s.

Starkie said he felt compelled to speak up about Andrew amid a sex assault lawsuit brought by Virginia Giuffre in the United States (the pair allegedly pictured together, with Ghislaine Maxwell smiling in the background). The Duke of York vehemently denies the allegations

Starkie claimed he felt the need to voice his concern about Andrew during a Virginia Giuffre sexual assault case. Starkie alleged that the pair were photographed together and Ghislaine Maxwell smiles in the background. The allegations are denied by the Duke and Duchess of York.

Bryan was not there, but Fergie wanted to impress Andrew. She had just embarked on one of her most madcap schemes — hunting for a horse with which she could compete as an eventer in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Starkie and her had found Heather Blaze the horse in Ireland. She needed someone to purchase it. Clive Garrad was an apparently successful property developer.

Garrad, an infrequently spoken wheeler dealer and who was planning to place the duchess’s name behind a string nursing homes that were he was trying to build, found Andrew charming.

The collaboration was a scandal. Garrad became bankrupt after evading VAT and was sent to prison. Fergie did not ride in the Olympics, and Heather Blaze was unable to keep her share after she broke a leg.

The night at Annabel was a different story. Between conversation and dinner, there was more dancing, and once again Starkie was struck by how cool — and dry — Prince Andrew remained.

At parties at Romenda Lodge’s and Kingsborn’s rentals, and Sunninghill where Andrew still lived, he saw it repeatedly.

The prince often brought his Jack Russell Bendicks with him, who was a beloved family pet and would play rough-and-tumble.

Starkie says, “Everytime Andrew was animated, took part in dancing and played party games and had never sweat a drop of blood on him.”

He was curious and wondered what the reason behind this. Bryan, his friend and hair-loss sufferer, had used an injection hormone treatment to promote hair growth. Andrew wondered if he used it too and whether the lack of sweat was just a side effect.

Andrew wasn’t experiencing hair loss, although he did appear to be thinning. Andrew says that he didn’t tell me about Andrew’s metabolic process and the way it had been affected by the Falklands experiences.

“I believed the lack of sweating might be a side effect of a medicinal drug, but it was never confirmed.” It was thought that it could be due to him being teetotal for a while.

Starkie claims that although he hasn’t spoken with the prince in 25 years Starkie said that he would swear to oath regarding Andrew’s sweating.

He said, “What happened to him was a tragedy.” “He was a warhero, who has dedicated his life serving his country. He is now being held back by innuendo.”

Starkie describes his memories of his time with Andrew as “a guarded, selective man.” Starkie said that Starkie was able to recall one thing: Starkie was still in love and in love with Andrew.

“As far I can see nothing has changed. He didn’t chase women, and I couldn’t in a million years picture him accompanying a young girl such as Virginia Roberts.