JAN MOIR: Strip private jets and Ghislaine is Rotherham all over again

JAN MOIR: She gave Epstein a sheen of respectability but if you strip away the private jets from Ghislaine Maxwell, it’s the Rotherham and Rochdale grooming scandals all over again

Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty of sex trafficking schoolgirls, but she is also guilty of betraying her own sex in unforgivable ways.

In public, she gave Jeffrey Epstein a sheen of respectability, in private — to the girls she helped lure into his depravity — she provided an illusion of safety.

For here was this nice lady, pouring tea, proffering biscuits, gifts and compliments. What could possibly go wrong?

During the trial, even her own defence team alluded to the cosy fantasy created by this Mary Poppins of perversion, asking the prosecution to explain why an ‘Oxford-educated, proper Englishwoman would suddenly agree to facilitate sex abuse of minors’.

Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty of sex trafficking schoolgirls, but she is also guilty of betraying her own sex in unforgivable ways

Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty of sex trafficking schoolgirls, but she is also guilty of betraying her own sex in unforgivable ways

Why, indeed. But the answers were there, if you looked hard enough.

She did it for love, possibly, but also for her own gratification; for power, status and money, including £22 million Epstein transferred into her accounts over the years.

In this, she betrayed not just women, but women from deprived backgrounds, which makes it much worse.

Sophisticated, educated and European — the attributes that Epstein so prized in her — Maxwell presented herself as a big sister to these teenagers, even as she ushered them towards the queasy horrors of the massage table and the bedroom.

‘Did you have fun? Was it good?’ she would ask cheerfully afterwards, the spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.

She behaved as if they had been to a lovely party instead of being subjected to the perverted sexual attentions of a man old enough, in many cases, to be their father.

She did it for love, possibly, but also for her own gratification; for power, status and money, including £22 million Epstein transferred into her accounts over the years. In this, she betrayed not just women, but women from deprived backgrounds, which makes it much worse

She did it for love, possibly, but also for her own gratification; for power, status and money, including £22 million Epstein transferred into her accounts over the years. In this, she betrayed not just women, but women from deprived backgrounds, which makes it much worse

Put yourself in her shoes for a moment. Would you usher a young girl into the clutches of a man like Epstein, or would you urge her to run a mile in the opposite direction? I think I know the answer.

Puppet or accomplice? Vulture or victim? We never found out what Maxwell thought of herself because she did not take the stand in her own defence — but what could she possibly say or plead to redeem what she did?

Even so, it was remarkable that her defence in court was not ‘I was manipulated’ or ‘I didn’t know what was going on.’ Instead, it was simply this: ‘They are all lying.’

Her lawyers complained that the prosecution evidence against Maxwell was the stuff of sensationalism, and that their client had been made to look like ‘Cruella de Vil and the Devil Wears Prada, all rolled up into one’.

Mary Poppins and now Cruella? Riding out into the hot Florida nights to round up all the pretty puppies; the broken girls, the desperate girls, the girls at the other end of the economic spectrum for whom a couple of hundred dollars for an unpleasant half-hour with a weird old guy was a worthwhile transaction? All that and more.

Despite the palm trees, the yachts and the glitter of wealth, it was Rochdale and Rotherham all over again; the coercion of the vulnerable to sate the desires of the unspeakable.

And yet. A victim admitted in court she was 18 when Maxwell coaxed her into a schoolgirl outfit ‘to please Jeffrey’.

One Epstein accuser, who attended court but was not part of the trial, was 21 and working in a Manhattan department store when Maxwell ‘groomed’ her — and then for three years, she, Maxwell and Epstein became an occasional throuple.

I excuse Maxwell for nothing, but one has to wonder what is deemed sexual abuse and what is a consensual adult relationship, later regretted and perhaps even harvested for financial gain.

Yet one hardly dares breathe a whisper of doubt. In the febrile sexual politics of America today, in the climate of #MeToo, the testimony of any female accuser is now sacrosanct.

We live in a world where the Sex And The City actor Chris Noth has found himself instantly and comprehensively cancelled after being accused of historical sexual assaults, whether guilty or not.

There seems to be a frenzy for revenge; a lust for redemption for the sins against all women for ever and ever, amen.

On Sky News on Wednesday night, lawyer Lisa Bloom, who has acted for many Epstein accusers, said of Maxwell; ‘May she never have another day of freedom again. I hope she spends the rest of her life behind bars.’

Is it wrong to hope for a little perspective? Ghislaine Maxwell is guilty of terrible crimes — but she is not Myra Hindley.

Much has been made of the victims’ troubled family lives. But even a villain must have a backstory these days, and Ghislaine Maxwell had a difficult family life of her own; an operatic tale of money and madness and casual cruelties.

Yet she can expect no sympathy for the daddy-shaped craters in her emotional landscape, for the damage she has inflicted on others is simply too much.

She took advantage of young women, ruining their chances of graduating from girlhood to full bloom without a blemish. It is a heritage of loss on all sides.

It is remarkable that Maxwell’s life was dominated by men — first by her father, then by Epstein — but her trial in New York was dominated by women.

There was a woman in the dock, four women giving testimony, other women who professed themselves to be victims queuing up outside to get a seat in court.

There was a female judge while the lead lawyers on both sides were also female. There was even a female court artist whose sketches sometimes gave Ghislaine an unlikely glamour; her hair an inky bouffant curve, a nicely puffed sleeve on a pastel blouse.

On the surface, this case was all about women. Women abused, women accused, women believed, women disbelieved. But if we are to be honest, in the end, as it so often is, it was all about a man.

Unluckily for Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein is beyond justice now. One can only imagine how bitter she must feel that her emotional investment in him, her hard-fought place in his grotesque orbit has come to nothing, leaving her as the donkey upon whom all the blame must be pinned. And for what?

In all the photographs of the couple produced in evidence, it is notable how uncomfortable he often seems at her side, almost as if he can barely tolerate her presence. His uneasy gaze also seems to hold an inner recognition of his own worthlessness; almost as if he knows that one day the world will look upon these snapshots and know the rotten truth about him.

Epstein made a mockery of the American justice system for decades; it is part of Ghislaine Maxwell’s burden that she must be punished for that, too.

At the beginning of the trial, her lawyer said all that mattered in the case were the three Ms: memory, manipulation and money.

Sadly, you could say the same about Maxwell’s life. Did you have fun, Ghislaine? Was it good?

The age of enlightenment?

The youngest victim in the Epstein/Maxwell scandal was 14, and most were in their mid to late teens. Which makes me wonder, at what age does someone move from child-victim status into a person who is responsible for their own actions?

When she was 15, Greta Thunberg began the school strikes and public speeches, which made her an internationally recognised climate activist.

Detractors said the teen had been brainwashed by adults in pursuit of their own causes, while her supporters claimed she was an intelligent campaigner perfectly capable of making her own informed decisions.

Shamima Begum (pictured) was the same age (15) when she travelled 3,000 miles from London to Syria to become an Isis bride.

Her supporters say she was radicalised by adults, while her detractors claim she was an independent crusader, emotionally qualified to make her own choices.

You cannot be both enlightened and misguided at the same time, whatever your age.

Potter film stars make Rowling disappear

What will J.K. Rowling feel, watching her Harry Potter film stars reunite for a one-off 20th anniversary television special, while her invite seems to have been lost in the post?

Return To Hogwarts (Sky) will be broadcast on New Year’s Day, and already participant Emma Watson — who played Hermione Granger — has said she felt ‘quite overwhelmed’ by the occasion

Return To Hogwarts (Sky) will be broadcast on New Year’s Day, and already participant Emma Watson — who played Hermione Granger — has said she felt ‘quite overwhelmed’ by the occasion

Return To Hogwarts (Sky) will be broadcast on New Year’s Day, and already participant Emma Watson — who played Hermione Granger — has said she felt ‘quite overwhelmed’ by the occasion.

However, she still has not offered a cheep of support to Rowling, the woman whose genius made her rich and famous.

Like other Potter stars, Emma has criticised Rowling for her views on transgender issues. 

If she really felt that way, why not boycott the anniversary?

Wash her hands of the entire tainted franchise, hand back the money and dissociate herself from J.K. Rowling for ever.

Or perhaps not. I feel a spell coming on…

Expelliarmus hypocrites!

Beware…the Tartan Army is on the move

Dear People of England,

Ahem. I would like to apologise in advance for my fellow Scots invading England to celebrate Hogmanay this evening. Some of them will be mild-mannered and polite, but some of them will be refreshed with alcohol, in the way that a volcano is sometimes refreshed with lava. Some of them may do things that you will never forget or forgive, and I’m sorry for that.

I speak from experience.

Should I knock over a teacup or, for example, take the last piece of cheese, I have a friend who always says: ‘Here we go, Wembley 1977 all over again.’

Older readers may recall the moment when Scottish football fans invaded the Wembley pitch and stole the goalposts after Scotland beat England 2-1. A national shame!

Gird your penalty boxes, people — and prepare for the worst. I hope! In the meantime, I’d like to wish you all a very Happy New Year.

Ghislaine Maxwell was broken when her father died in 1991, and she remains the only one of the Maxwell children still to believe he was murdered. Yet mere hours after his death, a buoy of pragmatism popped up in her wild sea of grief. According to John Preston’s excellent book Fall — The Mystery Of Robert Maxwell, it was Ghislaine who had the presence of mind to suddenly instruct the on-board yacht staff to ‘shred everything’. 

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