For a party girl with no parties left to attend, Ghislaine Maxwell’s 20-mile journey from her mountain hideaway in Bradford, New Hampshire, to Merrimack county jail was the brutal, cinematic finale to a social highlife that stretched across decades and continents.
Taken by surprise at 8.30am last Thursday, and accompanied by officers from at least six US law enforcement agencies, the 58-year-old was taken to the medium-security facility and later arraigned via audio-only video conference, accused of luring underage girls, one as young as 14, for her former boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse.
A spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan said Maxwell is expected to be transferred to New York for a court appearance this week, where she will be charged on four counts relating to allegedly helping transport minors for sexual activity and two for perjury.
Prosecutors could have brought Maxwell to New York to be formally charged by federal prosecutors last Friday. The delay, even accounting for America’s Fourth of July holiday, means she will not be in court until Tuesday at the earliest.
The delay comes as pressure intensified on Prince Andrew to cooperate with FBI investigators last night after Vera Baird QC, the victims commissioner for England and Wales, urged him to be “more forthcoming” and help the survivors of paedophile Epstein find justice.
Baird said the Duke of York needed to be guided by sympathy for the victims and start assisting US prosecutors investigating sex offender Epstein.
“It’s a shame there isn’t something a little more forthcoming [from Prince Andrew], not in terms of accepting any responsibility but that he appreciates what his former friend [Epstein] was doing,” Baird told the Observer.
“It’s important that everybody involved in the case makes it clear that victims are the most important people and that they need justice and merit empathy.”
Amid mounting speculation that Maxwell will opt for a plea deal, a friend of hers came forward yesterday to say she would “never” disclose information about the Duke of York in the Epstein case.
Former investment banker Laura Goldman said Maxwell regarded the Duke of York as a friend and was “never going to say anything” about him to prosecutors. But that pressure comes as signs in the US point toward the investigation moving swiftly beyond Maxwell to other figures implicated in the Epstein scandal.
The Southern District of New York ran the investigation into Epstein through its Public Corruption Unit, as it had with its case against Epstein. The charges against Maxwell, involving three alleged but unnamed victims, overlap with the charges brought against the former financier, who killed himself while in custody days after being formally charged.
Both are signals, overt and covert, that neither case was ever truly about Epstein or Maxwell’s alleged sexual misconduct. The Southern District is primarily the federal government’s prosecuting arm for Wall Street securities fraud, organised crime and political corruption; prosecutors do not make their careers busting sex crimes, whatever the level of moral public outrage.
On the day of Epstein’s arrest last July, the FBI removed dozens of boxes from his Manhattan town house and hundreds of photos of naked girls and women, as well as CDs labelled with the names of young girls, the “+” sign, and the names of men.
Coupled with allegations against Epstein and Maxwell by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, the long list of powerful financial and political figures that were directly or circuitously associated with Epstein’s international social largesse and the dark allegations that surfaced amid original efforts to prosecute him under federal law in 2006, will be uncomfortable.
Roberts Giuffre has urged the Duke of York to help US investigators after claiming that she was coerced into sleeping with him when 17, after they met at the London home of Maxwell. Prince Andrew has categorically denied any involvement with Roberts Giuffre.
Leading up to her arrest, Maxwell had been living in Tuckedaway, a luxurious $1.1m retreat in the forests of New England she purchased through a shell company eight months ago. Visitors venturing past the gate are met by a tattooed, ex-forces guard in a Patriot Alliance cap and shooed away.
In such a quiet location, said one neighbour, the most that ever happens is finding a bear or moose in the garden. But another said the area was dotted with expensive properties whose owners were not known, and preferred it that way.
“Never met her. Never saw her. Never heard anything. Nothing. Ask anybody in the whole town. Nobody. Nothing” said Richard Morris, whose property sits opposite Tuckedaway’s steep driveway. His daughter Amanda concurred. “Nobody on this road knew she was there.”
In retrospect, said a member of Bradford’s council, perhaps there had been signs. He recalled “there were a couple of people who looked like muscle who’d come down to the post office.” But, he added, “you only make those connections later.”Last week, the FBI investigators said they had been discreetly keeping tabs on Maxwell’s whereabouts. Out of sight, out of mind – but she was not always so retiring. The Oxford graduate and daughter of the press baron Robert Maxwell was this weekend pictured sitting on the Queen’s Buckingham Palace throne in a photograph dated to the early 2000s.
It’s a vivid reminder that Maxwell was in essence a party girl. In London, but especially in New York, she served the essential function of a social hostess. “You have to remember that all of these men are highly intelligent, ambitious but with few social skills and no entrance into society whatsoever,” recalls one acquaintance. “She helped them get into society. She helped them fill in the blanks.”
At the pinnacle of that was the British royal family, and Epstein casually boasted to friends that he looked after the royals’ money. The extent of that is unknown, but in 2011 the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, said Epstein had paid a $24,000 debt to her former personal assistant, Johnny O’Sullivan, calling it “a gigantic error of judgment on my behalf”.
At the most brutal end of that of that equation were young girls, often from Eastern Europe or Russia, or as Maxwell and Epstein have been accused, trafficked and groomed sometimes directly from the school playground.
The heady mix of Epstein and Maxwell’s world of power and wealth in the 90s “is a fascinating portrait of a moment in New York society”, said one acquaintance.
“There was a sick undercurrent of wealthy, powerful, dominating men. Things happened, things went down that were unacceptable in terms of girls being meat. It was just accepted – and carnal – there’d some gorgeous girl from a gallery or a publishing house and these older powerful men, married or unmarried, it didn’t really matter.”
“But there were also girls from backgrounds that didn’t have the strength or experience to know that this was a sordid, toxic thing. For them, it was just part of the landscape.”
For Maxwell, it was understood by friends that her relationship with Epstein, after their romantic involvement had fizzled, was predicated on a social exchange. She wanted to become a helicopter pilot and Epstein had two. Only years later did it emerge in reports that he bought her a $4m Sikorsky S-76C – nicknamed Air Ghislaine 2.Maxwell’s friends during her New York life say they were in the dark about any alleged wrongdoing that has now resulted in criminal charges against her. They were, however, perplexed by her attachment to Epstein even after her relationship with him had ended.
With Maxwell in Merrimack jail, pressure on Prince Andrew will intensify to agree to a sit-down with US investigators.
Rebecca Hitchen, campaigns manager at the End Violence Against Women (EVAW) coalition said: “Given the seriousness of the allegations of abuse of girls and young women, he should do the right thing and agree to what the authorities need without further delay.
“The priority should be ensuring these survivors’ voices are heard and that they are able to access some form of justice for what was done to them by powerful people who considered themselves above the law.”
A life of privilege
Born on Christmas Day in 1961, Ghislaine Noelle Marion grew up at Headington Hill Hall, an Italianate mansion above Oxford and the HQ of Pergamon Press, the publishing house run by her father, Robert Maxwell, the Jewish refugee from the Carpathian mountains who became a left-of-centre newspaper magnate, and briefly MP for Buckingham. She is the youngest of Betty Maxwell’s surviving seven children: ranging above her are Anne, Philip, twin sisters Christine and Isabel, and her more famous brothers, Ian and Kevin, who once worked closely with his father at Maxwell Communication Corporation.
A keen schoolgirl with an obsessive desire to acquire new skills, Maxwell showed prowess on the hockey field at Marlborough College, Wiltshire, before going up to Balliol College, Oxford. One contemporary was George Monbiot, who tweeted on Friday of “a networking nightmare of bright laughter and false friendship, with a howling void beneath”'.
In New York in her 20s she set up a corporate gifts business and appeared in gossip columns. She was seen as her controversial father’s favourite child: his £15m yacht was named Lady Ghislaine.
Life changed forever on 5 November 1991, when her 68 year old father fell, or was pushed, from his yacht and was later found dead off the Canary Islands.
A qualified helicopter pilot, Ghislaine also claims to have trained as a magician’s assistant and tells an interviewer of her frantic lifestyle: “If I’m not tired, there’s something wrong.” She has also said her social activity and changing business interests provided her with “a refuge”.
The Maxwell family is further rocked when Robert is found to have “fraudulently appropriated” the Mirror Group’s pension assets to support the company share price to stave off bankruptcy. 32,000 employs lost their pension pot. As a relationship with the Italian aristocrat and hotel group millionaire, Count Gianfranco Cicogna, ends, Ghislaine meets the billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein at a New York party in 1992. They become close confidantes.
With a London mews home near Harrods, when in Manhattan her circle included socialites and VIPs such as Bill Clinton, Elon Musk and the Duke of York, who accompanied her to the 2000 Ralph Lauren fashion show. That year the prince also infamously throws her a “straightforward shooting weekend” at Sandringham to celebrate her birthday. Her old friend Laura Goldman has spoken this weekend of her loyalty to the Duke.
As the net closes on Epstein, following allegations that he trafficked and abused underage girls,, Ghislaine recedes from view. Having returned to an early love of the sea to run TerraMar, a now defunct environmental organisation, she drops out of the charity party circuit from 2016 after being accused of procuring girls. Epstein is found dead in prison on 10 August 2019, presumed to have killed himself while awaiting trial.
After living with a younger boyfriend, CEO Scott Borgerson, in a seaside mansion near Boston, Maxwell is missing. There are dubious sightings claimed around the globe as Prince Andrew attempts to explain his relationships with her and with Epstein. She is in fact living in a four-bedroom mountain top hideaway, in Bradford, New Hampshire.