Since the arrest of convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein last month, the whereabouts of his former girlfriend and alleged accomplice, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, has been the subject of intense scrutiny.
But in a photograph published on Thursday, Miss Maxwell appears relaxed and apparently happy to pose at a burger chain in the Hollywood Hills.
What led America’s most watched woman, who has not been photographed in public since 2016, to appear at one of the most recognisable places in one of the most photographed cities in the world?
The emergence of the picture, reportedly taken on Monday afternoon, has led to speculation that Miss Maxwell may be planting appearances to avoid public scrutiny. Fittingly, she was reportedly reading a book on the "secret lives" of CIA operatives. Once spotted, Miss Maxwell then reportedly told an onlooker: "Well, I guess this is the last time I’ll be eating here".
The spotlight on the 57-year-old intensified last week when unsealed court documents revealed she was accused of playing a key role in procuring young girls for Epstein. Miss Maxwell has never been charged with any crime, and has always denied any wrongdoing in connection with Epstein’s sexual abuses.
But in the aftermath of Epstein’s death in prison, awaiting a trial on fresh charges involving underage girls, the US attorney general William Barr warned "any co-conspirators should not rest easy" and lawyers for Epstein’s accusers are said to be keen to speak to Miss Maxwell as the conspiracy case into Epstein’s network continues.
Workers at the In-and-Out burger bar on the intersection of a motorway cornering the Hollywood Hills were under strict instruction not to divulge any detail of Miss Maxwell’s unexpected visit on Monday. The photos, obtained by the New York Post, show the socialite sat hunched over a burger, wearing a pair of glasses and with two plastic cups on her table.
In a second shot, she appears to be posing with her glasses removed and a book placed in front of her. A smartphone is sat on the opposite side of the table, suggesting she was not dining alone.
When asked about Miss Maxwell’s appearance, In-and-Out employees claimed to have been gagged by their employer and under strict orders "not to speak behalf of In-and-Out".
Miss Maxwell’s links to Los Angeles are tenuous, with her circle of socialite and reality star friends anchored to the east coast. Terra Mar, her ocean preservation effort which she shuttered in July when Epstein was arrested for a second time, is linked to surfing and beach cleanup initiatives across the west coast, including Santa Monica beach. The Los Angeles based organisers who helped promote Terra Mar were nowhere to be found on Thursday evening.
On Wednesday a report suggesting Miss Maxwell was in a secluded beach front property in Manchester-by-the-sea, in Massachusetts led camera crews to the quiet New England town. The owner of the house, Scott Borgerson, later insisted she was not at his home, cryptically describing her as a "former friend".
According to neighbours, Miss Maxwell went by "G" rather than her distinctive first name, and would take a vizsla dog for walks along the beach but largely kept to herself. One local resident, who said he often saw Miss Maxwell and Mr Borgerson out running, said she had been not seen in the area for at least two weeks.
Too add to the mystery over Miss Maxwell’s whereabouts, several sources suggested that the Paris-born, Oxford-educated socialite may have travelled to France in the wake of Epstein’s death, where she has links to Aix-en-Provence, near Marseilles.
There was speculation she could have been staying with her older sister, Christine, at her home in the rural village of Meyreuil.
However, legal documents seen by The Telegraph showed Christine Maxwell, who turned 69 on Thursday, and her husband, the physicist Roger Malina, reveal they sold their property in the area in 2015.
Former neighbours of the couple described them as polite, but remote, with many remembering Christine as the daughter of the disgraced newspaper mogul Robert Maxwell.
One neighbour said he met Ghislaine "maybe once" in the home of her sister when she came to visit. All had lost touch.