Our writer sat through the trial in New York and reports on the humiliation of the mwah-mwah princess, her repeated failures to end Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse and the chances of her cutting a deal with the Feds
Guilty, five times over, Ghislaine Maxwell, shackled, sits in the sweat box as it crawls over Brooklyn Bridge along with the rest of the rush-hour little people she used to fly over, saying a last goodbye to the Imperial City’s billion-dollar stalagmites. The one-time Princess Mwah-Mwah is now the Demon Queen, facing 30 years, the rest of her life in prison, not some Disneyland of rightwing fantasy but a bone pit of the bad, the mad and the broken locked up until the end of age.
She has a secret key that could unlock her shackles. What if she sings, tells the feds what she knows, gives up the overmighty men who, along with her one-time lover Jeffrey Epstein, abused women more child than adult back in her pomp? She could cut her jail time down to 10 years and be out in seven, thanks to good behaviour.
But to do that, Maxwell – once the bosom pal of the second son of the Queen of England, two US presidents, and our prime minister, Boris Johnson, on the word of his sister, Rachel – would have to admit that she had been Epstein’s $30m pimp, that she treated a host of underage women as nothings, trash, that she did great wrong, that she was sorry.
No sign of that. I do feel pity for Maxwell, for the dark chasm between how her life was and the wretched place she is in now but her lack of remorse, her failure to address reality, her unwillingness to express a smidgen of regret to her victims hardens the heart. And therein lies her tragedy, the darkest fairytale of modern times.
Her first chance at coming clean was in 2002 when reporter Vicky Ward was checking out claims by Annie Farmer, who said that in 1996, when she was 16, she was flown to Epstein’s Zorro ranch in New Mexico where, her story goes, she was sexually abused by Maxwell and Epstein. She tricked Farmer, giving the teenager a massage. It became sexual, then Farmer realised the door was open, her fear being that Epstein was standing in the dark, watching.
Later, Epstein came into Farmer’s bed but she resisted, then fled. To Ward, Maxwell said: “I can guarantee that I didn’t give her a massage… Why do you say this? Some kid who just says she came to the ranch that I gave a massage to… It’s wrong. OK? It is wrong! I don’t like the implication of what you’re saying either, for the record. At all. I don’t like it at all. Disgusting.” That story never ran until far too late. Ward, by the way, went on to blog in 2011 that she admired Epstein and: “I like Ghislaine, everyone does.” No one at all who knew Maxwell back in the day comes out of this story well.
Maxwell’s second chance to set evil to rights was in October 2005 when the Palm Beach police department raided Epstein’s house on El Brillo Way. The socialite who got a countess to write a 50-page manual on such things as how full a box of tissues had to be before it was thrown away – half – never noticed the fresh child factory production line of underage girls coming and going. But she would have registered the fact of the police raid, surely? Would, perhaps, have wondered what had happened to all the house’s computer hard drives, including, one would think, her own, when they were mysteriously removed before the raid, as if a bent copper in on the police investigation had forewarned Team Epstein? Nothing from Maxwell then.
Not a word in 2007 when she got her final dollop of Epstein’s $30m, a single $7m transfer for a helicopter to be owned by her own company. Silence in 2008 when her ex Epstein was convicted of procuring an underage girl for prostitution, effectively that he was a paedophile. She was still taking his money in 2009, by her own account. In 2016 she swore on oath, in a civil suit brought by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, that there had been no underage sex, nothing to see here, folks. She was still watching the paedophile’s back.
Silence, too, in 2019 when Epstein was arrested a second time in July and in August when he killed himself in jail. Instead of facing the music, Maxwell ran, only to be caught and tried.
She could have told the jury that she was innocent, that the four women who said they had been abused were making it up, as were their three boyfriends, as was the butler, Juan Alessi, as was the chain of photographs showing an intimacy from the early 90s, as was the chain of money transfers proving that Epstein paid her $30m over eight years for being a fancy janitor. Instead, she held her tongue, only telling the judge: “The government has not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. So there is no need for me to testify.”
Her bark of arrogant command echoed her father, Robert Maxwell, the first monster in her life, a man who stole £400m from his pensioners, who took pride in pissing off the roof of his helicopter pad in the heart of London, who evacuated his bowels within earshot of reporters, who used to wipe his bottom with cloth towels and let the maids pick them up. Her pattern of denial over two decades suggests that his daughter will find it impossible to do a plea bargain with the feds and so her future looks impossibly bleak. And that can only be down to her – and the rest of the Maxwell family.
Questioned about the evidence against her on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, her brother Ian Maxwell said that conditions in her remand prison were grim. We all agree. But Maxwell in court looked fantastic, as if she had stepped off a yacht. Brothers Ian and Kevin both hit their stride, proclaiming their sister’s innocence, Kevin saying “she is not the Demon Queen”.
One can only ask why did Epstein pay her $30m? The prosecution case was, simply put, that no 16-year-old girl would fly to the middle of nowhere in New Mexico to spend a weekend with Epstein but if her mother were told that Maxwell was going to be there, then you might. The same goes for the other three victims: Jane and Kate and Carolyn. Maxwell got her $30m and in return she provided cover for the paedophile. I sat through the evidence and came to the conclusion that she was as guilty as sin. So did the other reporters. So did the jury.
That said, it makes one deeply uneasy that while Maxwell is facing a long, slow, grey death inside, the alpha males in our dark fairytale are walking free. The presidents, the prince, the famous Harvard lawyer, the Wall Street masters of the universe, the scientists with brains the size of planets, hobnobbed with Epstein and Maxwell, many on the Lolita Express, some on Paedo Island in the US Virgin Islands. They all deny doing or seeing anything untoward. True, none of the under-age women say they were sexually abused by Trump and Clinton.
Harvard lawyer Alan Dershowitz vehemently denies wrongdoing but he has questions to answer. His primary accuser, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, stands by her story that she was required to have sex with him on multiple occasions. She also accuses Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, saying she was forced to have sex with him three times in 2001 and there is a photograph that shows they met. For the moment, Andrew Windsor denies all, as convincingly as a gimp photographed in a gimp suit denying he’s a gimp. Virginia’s lawyers are asking him to prove that she was wrong to say that he was a sweaty dancer because he can’t sweat. My friend Ashley Grossman, professor of neuro-endocrinology at Oxford, thinks the prince’s claim nonsense. Virginia was 17 when she was trafficked from Florida to London. If only there was some kind of police body in London that could investigate…
The dark fairytale of Ghislaine Maxwell isn’t over, not by a long chalk.
John Sweeney was the reporter on the Hunting Ghislaine podcast and his book, Hunting Ghislaine, will be published by Hodder this spring.