Who is Ghislaine Maxwell? The London socialite now accused of being paedophile’s procuress

NEW YORK CITY, NY - MARCH 15: Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell attend de Grisogono Sponsors The 2005 Wall Street Concert Series Benefitting Wall Street Rising, with a Performance by Rod Stewart at Cipriani Wall Street on March 15, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Ghislaine Maxwell has been charged with helping financier Jeffrey Epstein in his abuse of young girls (Getty)

Ghislaine Maxwell’s long-time link to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein culminated in a court appearance yesterday, where she stood accused of helping him exploit underage girls.

Maxwell was arrested in New Hampshire on Thursday after disappearing following Epstein’s death in August last year and has been charged with helping the disgraced financier “identify, befriend and groom” multiple girls, including one as young as 14.

She could now face life in prison if found guilty.

But who is the British socialite caught up in the scandal and how did she end up so closely connected to Epstein?

No stranger to wealth

Born not far from Paris, Maxwell was the youngest of media baron Robert Maxwell’s nine children.

She spent her childhood at her family’s mansion, Headington Hill Hall in Oxfordshire, and attended the exclusive public school Marlborough College before studying at Balliol College, Oxford.

After graduating, Maxwell held various posts in her father’s companies and was a prominent figure on the London social scene.

Actor George Hamilton with Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of Robert Maxwell, arriving at Epsom.
Maxwell's alleged activities with Epstein are a far cry from her background in British high society. (AP)
FILE - In this Nov. 7, 1991, file photo Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of late British publisher Robert Maxwell, reads a statement in Spanish in which she expressed her family's gratitude to the Spanish authorities, aboard the "Lady Ghislaine" in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Maxwell, a British socialite who was accused by many women of helping procure underage sex partners for Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested in New Hampshire, the FBI said Thursday, July 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Dominique Mollard, File)
Maxwell appearing after her father Robert Maxwell's death in 1991. (AP)

Her life was thrown into chaos with the death of her father in 1991, who was found floating in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the Canary Islands having apparently fallen overboard from his luxury yacht.

His death exposed his multimillion-pound pension fund fraud at Mirror Group newspapers, plunging the family’s empire into disarray.

With two of her brothers under investigation for the fraud, Maxwell fled to New York to start a new life.

Meeting Epstein

It was in the United States that Maxwell met Epstein.

It is believed the pair were in a romantic relationship but the true nature of their connection has remained unclear, with some knowing them as a couple, while others thought she was his assistant.

FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2000 file photo, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, driven by Britain's Prince Andrew leaves the wedding of a former girlfriend of the prince, Aurelia Cecil, at the Parish Church of St Michael in Compton Chamberlayne near Salisbury, England. The FBI said Thursday July 2, 2020, Ghislaine Maxwell, who was accused by many women of helping procure underage sex partners for Jeffrey Epstein, has been arrested in New Hampshire. (Chris Ison/PA via AP, File)
Maxwell disappeared following Epstein's death in August 2019. (AP)

Epstein himself described the socialite as his “best friend”.

It was Maxwell who allegedly introduced Epstein to the Prince Andrew, whom she knew through the circles she had mixed in in British high society, in the early 1990s.

The Duke of York claims he did not meet Epstein until 1999.

Read more: Prince Andrew showing 'zero co-operation' with FBI request for Jeffrey Epstein interview

In 2000 Prince Andrew and Maxwell would be seen on holiday with Epstein at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida.

In the same year Epstein and Maxwell also attended a party at Windsor Castle hosted by the Queen to mark Andrew’s 40th birthday, the Princess Royal’s 50th, the Queen Mother’s 100th and Princess Margaret’s 70th.

From left, American real estate developer Donald Trump and his girlfriend (and future wife), former model Melania Knauss, financier (and future convicted sex offender) Jeffrey Epstein, and British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell pose together at the Mar-a-Lago club, Palm Beach, Florida, February 12, 2000. (Photo by Davidoff Studios/Getty Images)
Maxwell (right) was pictured at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida in 2000 with Donald Trump (left), his then-girlfriend Melania Knauss and Jeffrey Epstein. (Getty)

The first allegations

It is alleged that it was in the 1990s when Maxwell started identifying and grooming young girls for Epstein.

In the indictment she currently faces, she is accused of charges including conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts and enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts.

Read more: Jail where disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein found dead was ‘short staffed’

She is also charged with conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

Acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss said: “(She) would be present for sex acts involving the minor victim and Epstein, Maxwell’s presence as an adult woman helped put the victims at ease.”

One of Epstein's victims has claimed Maxwell introduced her
One of Epstein's victims, Virginia Roberts, claims she was assaulted by Prince Andrew at Maxwell's home. (PA)

Virginia Roberts, also known as Virginia Giuffre, who was groomed by Epstein between 2000 and 2002, She claims she was forced to have sex with Andrew three times in 2001, with the first encounter allegedly taking place in Maxwell’s London townhouse.

The duke has categorically denied he had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Giuffre.

The investigation into Maxwell

Police received their first complaint about Epstein for sexual abuse of minors in 2005, sparking an FBI investigation that went on to identify around 40 victims.

Over the next decade the investigation would continue in one form or another, with Maxwell’s name starting to appear in a growing number of civil cases brought by Epstein’s victims.

Read more: Prince Andrew has 'very little credibility', says lawyer of Epstein victims

The first, filed by Virginia Roberts, accused Maxwell of recruiting her in 1999 when she was still under age and grooming her as a sex slave for Epstein.

At this point, Maxwell disappeared from public life, with her lawyers and those of claimants in the cases against her saying she was “unreachable” and did not appear to have a permanent address.

Epstein was arrested at a New Jersey airport in July 2019 on sex trafficking charges and found dead in his prison cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in New York on 10 August.

Audrey Strauss, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks during a news conference to announce charges against Ghislaine Maxwell for her alleged role in the sexual exploitation and abuse of multiple minor girls by Jeffrey Epstein, Thursday, July 2, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Maxwell was arrested in July and has been charged with offences relating to procuring girls for Epstein. (AP)

Maxwell’s disappearance

Maxwell maintained a low profile and was rumoured to be staying at a former partner’s home in a coastal town in Massachusetts.

Five days after Epstein’s death, photos emerged of her apparently dining in a fast food restaurant in Los Angeles though they were later exposed as fakes.

In January 2020 Maxwell’s lawyers claimed they did not know where she was or have permission to accept papers in lawsuits naming her as a defendant.

She was arrested by the FBI in July in Bradford, New Hampshire, with FBI New York assistant director William Sweeney telling a press conference: “We have been discreetly keeping tabs on Maxwell’s whereabouts as we work this investigation.

“More recently we learned she had slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire, continuing to live a life of privilege while her victims live with the trauma inflicted upon them years ago.”