CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Did Ghislaine try to replace loathsome father?

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews the weekend’s TV: Did Ghislaine fall for a tyrant to replace her loathsome father?

Ghislaine Maxwell: Epstein’s Shadow




When we look at photographs of people accused of truly unforgivable crimes — not police mugshots, but ordinary snapshots and pictures — there is one question always present.

Can we look into a face and see the guilt or innocence?

Sometimes we can. Rapacious greed was stamped on newspaper magnate Robert Maxwell’s every bloated feature, from his lizard eyes to his swollen chins.

But if it is apparent in the face of his youngest daughter, Ghislaine Maxwell, I can’t see it — and neither could many who thought they knew her.

Ghislaine Maxwell is currently on remand in a New York jail awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges. She is pictured with her friend, paedophile Jeffrey Epstein

Ghislaine Maxwell is currently on remand in a New York jail awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges. She is pictured with her friend, paedophile Jeffrey Epstein

With her glossy hair and confident sneer, she looks selfish, ambitious and unpleasant in many paparazzi photos from the 1980s and 1990s. But so did many others.

Perhaps that is why numerous people were happy to be billed as her ‘former friends’, and be interviewed for the three-part investigation, Ghislaine Maxwell: Epstein’s Shadow (Sky Documentaries).

She is currently on remand in a New York jail, awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges later this year — alleged crimes which this second episode catalogued in detail.

If she is found guilty, no doubt she’ll have fewer ‘former friends’.

Any wrongdoing will then be proved. At the moment, some seem unable to fully believe it. Anna Pasternak, who knew her at university in Oxford, and 1990s party queen Lady Victoria Hervey were fumbling for explanations.

The film-makers are searching for an explanation too. One Freudian theory kept surfacing, the idea that Ghislaine (pronounced Gi-layne) was a daddy’s girl who grew up loving a male tyrant.

After Robert Maxwell died, the theory goes, his daughter replaced him with another corrupt, psychopathic, ultra-dominant male . . . billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

Art puzzle of the weekend:

Two shows hinged on Diana’s statue — William And Harry: Princes At War? (C5) and Harry And William: What Went Wrong? (ITV). But why is she depicted with anonymous children?


That shallow analysis somehow supposes women cannot be truly wicked on their own. They need a man to distort and debauch them.

All the evidence of this documentary suggests it was Epstein, completely amoral but none too smart, who needed assistance.

Both as a true crime story and a psychological study, the film is fascinating as far as it goes. But it leaves many questions unanswered and not only because Maxwell has yet to answer her accusers in court.

There was little attempt to resolve two 30-year-old mysteries — how did Robert Maxwell die, and what happened to the £2 billion he embezzled, including almost half a billion from his company’s pension fund?

The notion that he toppled over the guardrail of his yacht, after suffering a heart attack, is preposterous — unless he had the sort of coronary that causes a 22-stone body to levitate.

It’s much less improbable, though, than the plot of Swedish detective thriller Beck (BBC4), which returned with Peter Haber in the title role for the 42nd time.

Haber is now 69 and plays Inspector Martin Beck as a bemused relic, unable to cope with anything as newfangled as a smartphone. Oh, the japes when his daughter Inger (Rebecka Hemse) tried to show him how the Tinder dating app works!

Beck’s colleagues keep him around like an embarrassing great-uncle. Meanwhile they’re chasing drug dealers across Stockholm. At least three of the cocaine suppliers were policemen, which should have made them easier to catch but didn’t.

Every time I watch Beck, I hope it’s going to be better than it is, because the books on which it’s distantly based are so good.

In those novels, by Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall, Martin Beck is perpetually miserable. He’d be really depressed if he knew what the TV version was like.