How the Maxwell siblings stood by their ‘beloved’ sister Ghislaine and risked their own reputations again after family name was shamed by the fall of their father
The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell cast a spotlight on the lives of her siblings who put their own reputations on the line by showing public support for her.
Ghislaine’s sister Isabel and brother Kevin attended court, while brother Ian repeatedly criticised her prosecution and the conditions she had endured in custody while on remand.
They stood by her in a determined gesture of family support, despite the risk of tarnishing her own reputations by not condemning her over her relationship with Jeffrey Epstein.
However, a jury of six men and six women found her guilty on five out of six charges.
The verdict capped a monthlong trial featuring sordid accounts of the sexual exploitation of girls as young as 14, told by four women who described being abused as teens in the 1990s and early 2000s at Epstein’s palatial homes in Florida, New York and New Mexico.
Jurors deliberated for five full days before finding Maxwell guilty of five of six counts. As the verdict was read, Maxwell appeared to show little reaction behind a black mask. She stood with her hands folded as the jury filed out, and glanced at her siblings as she herself was led from the courtroom, but was otherwise stoic.
She faces the likelihood of years in prison – an outcome long sought by women who spent years fighting in civil courts to hold Maxwell accountable for her role in recruiting and grooming Epstein’s teenage victims and sometimes joining in the sexual abuse.
The defense had insisted Maxwell was a victim of a vindictive prosecution devised to deliver justice to women deprived of their main villain when Epstein killed himself while awaiting trial in 2019.
The legal fights involving Epstein and Maxwell are not over.
Maxwell still awaits trial on two counts of perjury.
Lawsuits involving the abuse allegations also continue, including one in which a woman not involved in the trial, Virginia Giuffre, says she was coerced into sexual encounters with Prince Andrew when she was 17. Andrew has denied her account and that lawsuit is not expected to come to trial for many months.
Commenting ahead of the verdict, a family friend said: ‘Blood is thicker than water, and that means the Maxwells stick together through thick and thin.
‘Ghislaine’s brothers and sisters regard her as their beloved little sister, and family loyalty has always run deep.
‘It is no surprise that Isabel, Kevin and Ian have offered their support in such a public fashion.
‘Obviously they had nothing to do with her relationship with Epstein, and it would have been easy to leave her to her fate – but that is not how the Maxwells operate.
‘They blame Epstein for sucking her into his web, and believe her prosecution was an attempt to make an example of her because his suicide meant he could not face justice.’
Robert Maxwell (back row, centre) pictured with his wife Betty (sat with youngest daughter Ghislaine on her knee) and seven of their eight children at home in Headington Hill Hall, Oxford. When this photo was taken Ian (5) was 11 years old and attending preparatory school, while Isabel, then 17 (4) was at grammar school with their sister Christine (3), and youngest son Kevin, 8, (6) was at preparatory school. Second oldest son Philip, (1), had entered his second undergraduate yer at Balliol College, Oxford, while Anne (2) was also studying at the university, but at St Hugh’s College.
Ghislaine Maxwell in June 2019 (pictured front) with her six living siblings. Ian Maxwell, her older brother, top right, shared the photo in March 2021. A month after it was taken, Jeffrey Epstein was arrested and Ghislaine went into hiding with her husband, Scott Borgerson. The siblings, L-R, are: Anne, Kevin, twins Isabel and Christine, Philip, and Ian
Kevin, Christine, Isabel Maxwell, and Ian Maxwell, brothers and sisters of Ghislaine Maxwell, arrive at the court in New York on Monday
Robert Maxwell with his ‘favourite’ daughter Ghislaine watching the Oxford vs Brighton football match in October 1984
Ghislaine’s trial was just the latest chapter in the roller coaster history of her family, once headed by her crooked publishing tycoon father Robert Maxwell.
Her father who owned the Daily Mirror died aged 68 in November 1991 after he tumbled into the Atlantic from his luxury yacht Lady Ghislaine – named after his youngest daughter.
His family were left to pick up the pieces of his shattered business empire after it emerged that he had embezzled hundreds of millions of pounds from his employee pension funds.
British socialite Ghislaine, 59, and her six surviving siblings had to live in the shadow cast by the legacy of his death which is still regarded as a mystery today.
Kevin, 62, became the UK’s biggest ever bankrupt when a £407 million bankruptcy order was made against him in 1992 due to his role in his bullying father’s business.
He and Ian, 65, who had assumed control of their father’s companies stood trial for their alleged part in his £460 million pension fraud.
They were acquitted in 1996 after an Old Bailey trial which cost taxpayers £12 million, although their family name was besmirched for many years.
Isabel, 71, earned a fortune with her twin sister Christine from early dot.com technology companies, but ended up being made bankrupt by a British court in 2015.
Her personal life was also hit by tragedy in the same year when her third ‘husband’, illusionist Al Seckel, died in a suspected fall near their home in France.
The couple had reportedly wed in Malibu in 2007, but their marriage was described as unofficial due to him still being legally married to his previous wife.
Isabel described how she dealt with challenges in life in an interview in 2006, saying: ‘I have learned not to run away from bad times.
‘Personal tragedies and loss connect you to what is happening in this world…I am a survivor with an innate fire that doesn’t allow me to be destroyed.’
She also described her close bond with her siblings, revealing how she grew up ‘completely in sync with the family’ and ‘when something got to her siblings, it got to her too.’
Isabel was Ghislaine’s only family member to attend every day of her trial, and she sat just yards away from her in the public gallery, waving at her in gestures of support.
She became a familiar sight walking in and out of court every day, wearing one of her trademark berets to ward off the chill of the New York winter.
Robert Maxwell pictured speaking to the press and at the Football Writers’ Association in 1990
Kevin was in court for several days when he sat beside Isabel, even featuring with her in artists’ impression drawings of Ghislaine in the courtroom.
He spoke to reporters outside the Manhattan court to complain about the conditions she was having to endure during the case.
Kevin claimed that she was being inadequately fed and forced to wear shackles while being taken to and from court which had left her bloodied and bruised.
He confirmed that he had asked the US Attorney General Merrick Garland to intervene in her case to ensure she received food and was not restrained
Kevin claimed his sister had to be shackled from when she left the Metropolitan Detention Centre until she arrived in court, and then again for her journey back.
He said: ‘She’s obliged to walk up and down stairs, in the shackles, and they hurt her.
‘She’s been bruised, she’s even bled, and you really have to ask yourself in 2021, what on earth are they doing shackling a 59-year-old woman in this way every day when she represents absolutely no threat to the community.’
He added: ‘She’s on trial for her life and she received no food on the first day, she received a boiled egg, she is lucky if it is not mouldy, she receives a couple of pieces of bread, maybe a Kraft slice and a banana or an apple.
‘That is literally everything from 6.30am until 7.30pm when she gets back to the detention centre. It is simply inadequate sustenance.
‘We don’t understand how it is possible that everybody washes their hands of that problem.’
Ghislaine’s other brother Ian was also vociferous in supporting her, and gave interviews where he maintained that she faced an unfair trial, saying: ‘My sister is not a monster’.
He claimed she had been ‘targeted’ for prosecution by US authorities who were ‘fuelled by their shame and fury’ over the suicide of Jeffrey Epstein while in custody.
Ian also hit out at her time on remand, describing it as ‘500 days of effective solitary isolation in that evil place’, adding that ‘she’s weakened, drained and hollowed out’.
Robert Maxwell who had nine children with his wife Elisabeth ‘Betty’ Meynard was known as a tyrannical and bullying father, but he doted on Ghislaine.
In a 1995 interview, Elisabeth talked of how they had recreated her husband’s childhood family who were killed in the Holocaust.
Two of Ghislaine’s siblings had their lives cut short by early deaths while she went on to enjoy a gilded jet-set lifestyle as a friend of Prince Andrew and partner of Epstein before he was exposed as a paedophile.
Profiles of her brothers and sisters reveal the different lives that they have led.
Michael, the tragic first-born child who died in his 20s
Michael was the first child born in 1946 after his parents married in 1945, but he died aged 23 .
He was severely injured aged 15 in a car crash when his family’s driver fell asleep at the wheel on December 27, 1961, just 48 hours after the birth of Ghislaine.
Michael was left in a coma and never regained consciousness. He died eight years later.
Philip, 73, the brilliant scientist who fled to Argentina
‘Poor Philip’ (left in 1971) as his friends knew him, was a brilliant scientist and mathematician who won a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford, aged 16. He eventually fled to Argentina. It is not known where he lives, but he joined his siblings for their 2019 reunion (right)
Philip was a brilliant scientist and mathematician who won a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford, aged just 16.
But he so loathed his domineering father that he reportedly fled to Argentina to get ‘as far away from [him] as possible’.
The pair fell out irretrievably when he married Nilda, an Argentinian woman, in 1977, against his father’s wishes.
The marriage didn’t last — Nilda moved out taking their daughter Marcella with her and a second marriage also failed.
Philip was last heard of living in a £65-a-week flat in North London trying to be a writer. The subject? His bullying father.
He joined the siblings for a reunion in London in 2019
Anne, ex-actress called ‘ugly’ by her father
Anne Maxwell, the eldest daughter, dreamed of becoming an actress before retraining as a teacher. She was bullied by her tyrant father over her looks. Pictured, in 1968 and 2019
Anne studied Italian and French at Oxford, and reportedly worked on a television series before giving up her dreams of stardom
When her fledgling acting career floundered, her father’s reaction was: ‘What have you and Pope John Paul II got in common? You’re both ugly and you’re both failed actors.’
She then trained as a Montessori teacher, married an osteopath and is now believed to be a hypnotherapist in Surrey, practising under another name.
She has kept out of the limelight since her father’s death at the age of 68.
Robert Maxwell (second left) with his wife Elisabeth (second right) and children Anne and Philip outside the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand in 1971
Isabel, 71, a ‘fireball’ who lost her internet fortune
Isabel lost an estimated £50million that she made during the dotcom boom with her sister
Isabel was born in Maisons Laffitte, France on August 16, 1950, along with her twin sister Christine.
In 1960, her family lived at Headington Hill Hall, Oxford, where the offices for Robert Maxwell’s Pergamon Press were located.
Her mother stated that while all of her children were brought up Anglican, Isabel was ‘very taken by the Jewish faith and the politics in Israel.’
She was a high achiever from a young age, telling an interviewer later: ‘I saw, with my own eyes, that anyone can [be successful]. My father did it, and he never even went to school.’
She was a pupil at Milham Ford School, Oxford, going on to study at St Hilda’s College, Oxford.
She graduated with an MA in Law, History, and French in 1972 and went on to gain a master’s degree in Education (French) from the University of Edinburgh.
It was then that she began her career in film and television production working for her father.
She made her first film, an adaptation of the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull, in 1973.
Her second film, a documentary on lesbian women, was made in 1980 and broadcast on television in the UK.
In 1981, she moved to California to work in TV before making a film set in 1968 starring rock singer Neil Young. ‘It wasn’t ET,’ she said, ‘. . . more a labour of love.’
By 1984, she married filmmaker Dale Djerassi, affiliate of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program and son of birth control pill inventor Carl Djerassi
The couple’s son Alexander was born the same year, but they divorced in 1989.
In 1990, she left the film industry, moved to Berkeley, and went to work with her sister Christine at an internet data company.
Isabel was branded a ‘fireball’ by The Jerusalem Post and someone who is ‘always in your face’
The same year, she married dot-com entrepreneur David Hayden.
Her world collapsed in 1991 when her father died. Speaking of the media frenzy surrounding the family during this period, she said: ‘In the year following his death, I made nine trips to England to help my mother.
‘Cameras followed us everywhere. I used to carry a tennis racquet and wave it around to fend off the photographers.’
She and twin Christine co-founded one of the earliest internet search engines, known as Magellan, in 1992.
According to the Daily Beast, the sisters appear in Michael Wolff’s book Burn Rate.
In it, he describes Christine as ‘more commanding than her sister.’
Meanwhile in a 1997 interview, Isabel said her sister had come up with ‘the idea of reviewing and rating’.
The company changed names to McKinley Group and became a search engine with ratings.
She served as a senior vice president while her second husband, David, was CEO and her sister Christine was publisher.
The Maxwell sisters launched the Magellan web search service in September 1995.
But a year later, with intensifying financial constraints, David was pushed out of the company by investors and Christine left.
At the same time, Isabel’s marriage deteriorated and later ended in divorce.
They sold the company for shares in a rival firm Excite — which rocketed in value, giving the sisters a joint £100 million fortune and landing them a place on the Sunday Times Rich list in 1999.
But despite the success of the sale, Isabel felt it cooled the relationship between them.
In 1997, she became President of Commtouch, an Israeli internet company that became CYREN, a position she held till 2001.
From 2003 to 2004, she was invited by Blumberg capital to become CEO of iCognito, renamed Puresight, an Israeli web content filtering software company.
She turned the company around, and it was sold in 2005 to Boston Communications.
While her business career was blooming, her personal life was also on the up.
Isabel and illusionist Al Seckel ‘married’ in Malibu in 2007 but their union was never legal because he had forgotten to file the papers to annul the second of three previous marriages to Denice Lewis, a former model who appeared in music videos for Bryan Ferry, Elton John and Cliff Richard.
Al Seckel, was once a significant player in the Californian literary, academic and celebrity scene.
Isabel Maxwell, at left wearing hat, Kevin, center, and Ian, right, stand outside the federal courthouse on Monday evening
He was famous for holding parties for the great and good. Jeffrey Epstein was reportedly a friend.
In 2009, the two men organised a science conference called Mindshift on Epstein’s private island Little Saint James.
Similarly, Seckel had forgotten to repay countless debts over the years that resulted in endless legal proceedings.
The couple moved to France from Malibu, California, sometime around 2010, to care for Maxwell’s ailing mother.
They lived in Chateau de la Malartrie in La Roque-Gageac.
In 2015, Seckel was found dead below a cliff near their home in the village of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie in France’s Lot Valley.
Isabel was declared bankrupt by a British court after Seckel’s death
She still lives in the south of France but has since kept a low profile.
Christine, 71, dotcom boom millionaire
Christine amassed a £100million fortune during the dotcom boom
Christine entered the family business and spent years working for her father, even published a bestselling book for his Pergamon business
After attending Milham Ford School in Oxford, she entered Pitzer College, Claremont, California, graduating in 1972 with a BA with a major in Latin American Studies and Sociology.
In September 1973, Maxwell enrolled at Oxford Brookes University’s Lady Spencer Churchill College of Education and obtained a post graduate teaching certificate the following year.
She later earned a master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Texas at Dallas.
Christine was an editor for Pergamon Press Publishers, co-founded by her father, in the early 1970s and remained in his employ in the 1980s. She also spent time as a teacher in Oxford.
In a rare interview in 1998, she spoke of the years spent in her father’s publishing business, saying: ‘Both of my parents had a strong work ethic, which they instilled in me and my brothers and sisters when we were very young.
‘They also communicated a very clear understanding that advantages always come with responsibilities — that there was no such thing as a free ride.’
In 1977 she published The Dictionary Of Perfect Spelling (a book with 20,000 words aimed at secondary school pupils) with her father’s Pergamon Press. The title became an international bestseller and has been reprinted several times.
Like her twin, the 1980s and 1990s were dominated by success in the dotcom boom.
In 1982 Christine acquired Information on Demand, one of the earliest information brokers, which was later renamed Research on Demand.
In 1992, Christine created and co-authored one of the first hard-copy reference guides to the Internet: New Riders Official Internet Yellow Pages and The McKinley Internet Yellow Pages.
Continuing her streak, she co-founded software company Chiliad.
Christine is married to a Roger Malina, an astrophysicist, and the couple have three children.
According to her Linked In profile, Christine holds the position of Program Manager of Learning Technologies at The University of Texas and is a partner at big data firm Techtonic Insight Inc.
Karine, died of leukemia in childhood
Robert and Elisabeth’s sixth child, Karine, died of leukemia in 1957, aged three.
Her death shaped how the devastated parents would eventually view the birth of their daughter next daughter, Ghislaine, four years later.
Karine’s death upset the family’s ‘balance’ of ‘four boys and four girls’, Ian Maxwell explained in an interview.
‘So when my parents had another little girl [Ghislaine] it was really magic, it allowed the four boys and four girls to be recreated,’ Ian said. To add to the sense of miracle, she was born on Christmas Day.
Ian, 65, the ‘fall guy’ who defends his sister
Ian was taunted mercilessly at home by his father as he grew up and was ridiculed in front of visiting friends.
He still decided to join the family business, but his poor treatment continued and he was compared unfavourably to his younger brother Kevin.
In the aftermath of their father’s death, Ian, then 35, and Kevin, 32, assumed control of the company and stood trial for their part in their father’s £460 million pension fraud.
Ian pictured with his wife Laura at court on the first day of his trial, where he and his brother were accused of taking at least £122million worth of pension funds
Robert Maxwell pictured with his son Ian (left), who was taunted mercilessly by his father, and youngest son Kevin (right), who became Britain’s biggest ever bankrupt when a £407million bankruptcy order was made against him
They were acquitted, but the Maxwell name was mud for years and business opportunities were limited to overseas ventures.
Ian’s first wife was an American former college basketball star and model called Laura Marie Plumb.
They met when she moved to London to help set up a TV cable company.
The couple married in 1991 — the year of Robert Maxwell’s death — and the ensuing media attention put Laura under great strain. On the day that Ian and Kevin were arrested, she was photographed sobbing. The couple divorced in 1996.
Next, he married Tara Dudley Smith, the daughter of a Jockey Club steward and ex-Army officer. But that relationship also ended. He found happiness with Cecilia French, Director of Public Protection at the Home Office.
Recently, after pursuing business opportunities in property, energy and telecoms, mostly outside the UK, Ian and Kevin said they’d felt the urge to do something for the greater good.
Ian photographed trying to drive a moped while wearing a suit and tie. Three years ago, in the middle of the Greek financial crisis, he launched an organisation with his brother that has raised millions of euros to save several hundred businesses
So three years ago, in the middle of the Greek financial crisis, they launched an organisation similar to the Prince’s Trust in Greece which has raised millions of euros and helped to launch several hundred businesses.
Maxwell announced in September 2018 that he and his brother Kevin had founded a UK think tank, Combating Jihadist Terrorism (CoJit), with the aim of better understanding terrorism and its causes.
In March this year, he told The Times Epstein had ruined his youngest Ghislaine’s life, and she was paying for the US authorities’ failure to prosecute him.
Kevin, 62, Britain’s biggest ever bankrupt
Known as the cleverest son and driving force of the family, Kevin was crestfallen by his father’s death, saying that he ‘missed his presence and ability to dominate’. He admitted to being totally in awe of him.
He express remorse in public for the fallout from his father’s crimes, making reference to the ‘moral burden I will bear for the rest of my life’.
His first wife, Pandora Warnford-Davis called her father-in-law Robert the fat fraudster’.
When Kevin was arrested in June 1992 after hundreds of millions disappeared from the Maxwell empire’s employee pension funds, she appeared at the window of their home at dawn and shouted: ‘P*** off, or I’ll call the police!’ only to realise the early morning callers were the police.
Kevin was arrested and charged with fraud in 1992 after hundreds of millions disappeared from the Maxwell empire’s employee pension funds
Kevin (left) became Britain’s biggest ever bankrupt when a £407million bankruptcy order was made against him in 2007. (Right: Kevin pictured shortly after being declared bankrupt)
The couple divorced in 2007 after 23 years and seven children together. Pandora was last heard of living in Oxford, renting out a room through Airbnb.
Soon after his arrest, Kevin became Britain’s biggest ever bankrupt when a £407 million bankruptcy order was made against him.
The bankruptcy was discharged in 1995, following the mandatory three years.
He was acquitted of fraud a year later — even though a subsequent Whitehall report concluded Kevin bore a ‘heavy responsibility’ for what happened.
In 1998, he went on to co-found media company Telemonde, a US-based commercial vehicle for what he hoped would be ‘the Maxwell comeback story’. It was not to be.
When Telemonde floated in 1999, Kevin looked on course to becoming a multi-millionaire; on paper he owned a seven per cent stake, worth £16 million.
But by 2001, the company had debts of more than £100 million and failed. Kevin then moved into high end commercial property.
His venture came tumbling down in 2011 when he was disqualified from being a director for eight years.