Sex offender Jeffrey Epstein
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Sex Offender Jeffrey Epstein

New documentary reveals sex offender Jeffrey Epstein used socialite Ghislaine Maxwell for access to her famous and rich friends for years, from the 1980s onwards.

Ghislaine Maxwell’s association with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein began years earlier than previously understood, according to a documentary investigating the socialite who became an alleged procuress for the pedophile financier.

The new information challenges the common assumption that sex offender Jeffrey Epstein stepped into a vacuum in her life after the death of her father, the newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell, who was found in the sea near the Canary Islands in 1991.

Researchers working on the documentary have spoken to more than 200 sources over several years to build up a clearer picture of the society fixer. And it has emerged that her famous and rich friends, including Queen Elizabeth’s son, Prince Andrew, were being used to build Epstein’s influential network from the 1980s onwards.

“We were able to use court documents which are full of redacted names. There is always a reason for that, and it certainly set us looking into things,” Emma Cooper, executive producer of Ghislaine Maxwell: Epstein’s Shadow, told the Observer. “Interviews with so many [people] allowed our team to do an amazing amount of cross-referencing of testimony, and so we started to suspect that she had known Epstein longer, right back in the late 1980s when he was doing business in London. Eventually we got to the point where we could assert this fact, although we still don’t know exactly when they met or when their relationship started.”

Maxwell, 59, is now in jail in New York, facing charges as a co-conspirator in the sexual trafficking of young women and underaged girls. Her alleged crimes are said to have been committed with Epstein, her long-term partner and a serial sex offender, who was found dead in his prison cell in 2019 awaiting trial. Maxwell’s trial is likely to take place in the autumn.

The three-part documentary, to be screened on Sky from 28 June, focuses on Maxwell’s career as the youngest child of a corrupt media mogul. It tracks the heiress from her time at Oxford University to the centre of a high-profile social network in New York and Palm Beach, Florida, where Epstein was visited by a constant stream of young women.

Former staff allege that Maxwell would go out in a limousine in the evenings, looking for what she described as “nubiles” to bring back to Epstein’s Manhattan mansion, ostensibly to audition for photographic work. It also covers Maxwell’s later attempts to distance herself from Epstein, when she set up an environmental marine charity and began a discreet new relationship with a tech entrepreneur. A revealing sequence shows Maxwell speaking to a large audience about her now defunct organisation, TerraMar. A socially confident partygoer, she appears an oddly nervous public speaker.

Among other startling elements in the series are scenes from her father’s private 65th birthday party and testimony from his former colleagues, including journalist Peter Jay.

“For the first time, many of the people who knew her at university at Oxford felt they could open up,” said Cooper. “It seemed the right time to ask who this woman really is. We did not find much evidence of other serious relationships with men. Although she was active “on the scene”, we know of no prominent partners she went out with in public until Epstein.”

Telling reminiscences come from two of Maxwell’s former associates, writer Anna Pasternak, who knew her as an undergraduate, and the British aristocrat Lady Victoria Hervey. Many others were not prepared to go in front of the camera.

“Those who chose to speak off the record had different reasons, but often wanted to wait until after the trial. But we did have witnesses all corroborating each other’s memories,” said Cooper.

“One of the things they did confirm is how hard it was to know Ghislaine. She has always been an enigma, even to the people who knew her well, as she puts on a persona for different situations.”

Cooper added that, as one of the few people from Britain working on the documentary, she had the clearest sense of the importance of Maxwell’s background. “The British have followed this family for a long time, and there was a feeling that Ghislaine must have transferred her relationship with her father on to another man who was quite similar in many ways.”

It now seems this is not quite true. Researchers on the documentary believe that, long before Robert Maxwell’s death, Epstein was busily building his high-profile contacts, those names in his notorious “little black book”, from Ghislaine’s own friends and acquaintances.

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