GHISLAINE MAXWELL: EPSTEIN’S SHADOW. (2021) A 3-PART DOCUMENTARY SERIES DIRECTED BY BARBARA SHEARER. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. © Wow. This story has it all. Tragic beginnings in Hitler’s Holocaust, two ridiculously wealthy and powerful self-made men dying in questionable circumstances, and the dramatic fall from grace of the beautiful, well-connected socialite who had been the right-hand woman to each of the two. I was glued to this utterly gripping ‘true crime’ documentary from start to finish. Ghislaine Maxwell, now aged 59, is the woman in question. Her father, Robert Maxwell, most of whose family died in Auschwitz, was a sort of real-life Citizen Kane, a newspaper/publishing magnate who didn’t get to where he was in life by being a pushover. A polite way of saying that he completely lacked a working moral compass, according to some of the people who’d known him. Ghislaine, the youngest of his nine children, was his pet, his princess, and, in later years, his social ambassador and the woman he preferred over his wife Betty to have on his arm at social functions. Betty was, seemingly, a rather nondescript wife and mother who never stepped in to protect her children from their notoriously bullying father’s wrath. But no matter, Ghislaine was his everything, and he was hers. Ghislaine, we’re told, lived the high life during her father’s ‘reign’ in a way we peasants couldn’t even begin to imagine. ‘Champagne lifestyle’ doesn’t even begin to describe it. Luxury yachts, private jets, holidays all over the world, clothes, jewellery, an address book stuffed with rich and powerful connections, you name it, she had it. That particular era of her life came to an end when her almost universally loathed father was mysteriously found dead, floating in the Atlantic ocean near his yacht, the ‘Lady Ghislaine,’ in November of 1991. Much is made in the documentary of the fact that when Ghislaine arrived at the yacht after the news of the death broke, she immediately started ‘shredding documents,’ supposedly related to Daddy’s ‘shady’ business dealings… Maxwell’s publishing empire collapsed after his death. His name was utterly disgraced and blackened when it was discovered that he’d stolen millions of pounds from his own company’s pension funds to save himself from bankruptcy. In the documentary, Ghislaine, a proper Daddy’s Girl if ever there was one, looks visibly shaken at his funeral in Jerusalem, but don’t worry, folks, she doesn’t remain down in the mouth for long. She goes to live in New York and re-invents herself there, with the money from her trust fund (eighty grand a year), as a glittering socialite. Not exactly a huge leap for the woman of whom it is said in the film that, when she was greeting and air-kissing you at a party, she’d be busy looking over your shoulder for someone richer, more powerful, more influential than you. Nice lady, huh? She hooked up with dodgy financier Jeffrey Epstein around this time. Some people maintain that she’d known him since the late ‘80s when she was introduced to him by her father in London, while most people seem to think she met him in the early ‘90s in America. It probably doesn’t really matter when she met him. What matters is what they became to each other… Ghislaine quickly became a number of things to Epstein. Varying reports describe her as being everything from his Girl Friday, housekeeper and administrative assistant to his glamorous girlfriend, his entrée to social circles he might otherwise have been denied and his sort-of-wife. He’s described her himself, rather unflatteringly, I think, as his ‘best friend,’ and, knowing what we now know about Epstein’s predilections for sex with teenage girls as young as fourteen, I’m not even convinced that they had a proper man-woman sexual relationship. He mightn’t have even been capable of such a thing. It seems to be generally accepted now that Ghislaine procured underage girls for sex with Epstein and a ‘ring’ of his rich, powerful male friends. The private plane that flew girls to his idyllic island hideaway, nicknamed ‘Paedophile Island,’ was itself dubbed ‘the Lolita Express’ by the local Virgin Islanders. Jeffrey had an insatiable sexual appetite, it seems, and at least three young girls a day were required to give him the infamous ‘massages’ that ended in sex, or in his ‘pleasuring’ himself in their presence. Eeuw, seriously. When the girls left his fabulous 71 st Street Manhattan apartment in tears, Ghislaine would explain to their ‘door-lady’ Maria Farmer, herself a victim of the pair, that they’d failed an audition to model for Victoria’s Secret, a company with which Jeffrey was connected through his billionaire mentor, Leslie Wexner. It’s mentioned in the documentary that Ghislaine often had to hang around school gates in order to recruit these girls. She apparently targeted girls who didn’t look ‘rich,’ because rich girls had nannies and au pairs and were picked up by chauffeurs and had people who checked up on them and what-have-you. Poor or working-class girls, not so much. This fact is extremely significant. If these girls had been rich or connected, the authorities might have worked a little harder to put Jeffrey Epstein behind bars when reports of assaults and sexual irregularities began to trickle through to them. Maria Farmer, an artist, is extremely articulate, presentable and likeable, and, in the film, her frustration with law enforcement comes through loud and clear. Money talks, and we all know it. Money is what ‘saved’ Jeffrey Epstein from the worst effects of the first tranche of allegations against him in the ‘Noughties. It didn’t save him, however, from a lonely ‘suicide by hanging’ in a prison cell in the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in August, 2019. There are reasons to suggest he died under questionable circumstances, but we, the reading public, are unlikely to ever be privy to the real truth. Ghislaine languishes now in a Brooklyn prison cell, awaiting trial on charges relating to the sex trafficking of minors. The trial is set for this November and she’s denying all the charges. Her lawyers will probably try to use an immunity-for-Ghislaine clause in the Jeffrey Epstein ‘sweetheart deal’ of the late ‘Noughties to get her off. Failing that, they’ll probably claim that she was as much a victim of Epstein’s depravity as the girls he raped. That would be so hard for the victims to bear. I feel sure they’re dreading the prospect of Ghislaine slithering off the hook like, in a way, Jeffrey Epstein did, by utilising the ultimate cop-out of suicide. The film makes much of the fact that Ghislaine went from the arms of one uber-powerful alpha male, i.e., her dad, to another such man, Jeffrey Epstein. Does the fact that this is the kind of man she gravitates to excuse her behaviour? I doubt if the victims would think so, but it’s almost a certainty that her lawyers will bring this up at trial and try to make it count for something. Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew are all pictured with Ghislaine and Jeffrey in the documentary, in the photos we’ve come to know so well by now. After the photo of him with the underaged Virginia Roberts Giuffre went public around the world, Prince Andrew tried to rescue his reputation in that disastrous television interview of late 2019, but even Lady Victoria Hervey, one of Ghislaine’s former friends, thinks he’d have been better off keeping his trap shut. So, what will happen to Daddy’s Little Princess, who once said of the victims, in her trial of November, 2021? How will the story of Ghislaine Maxwell eventually pan out? Will there even be a trial? ‘These girls, they’re nothing,’ Will her lawyers get her off on a technicality, or through a spectacular loophole that we haven’t even thought of yet? Will justice be done, or will money kick justice’s arse yet again? One thing’s for sure. We’ll all be watching…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: