Ghislaine Maxwell’s defence got off to a shaky start yesterday when a judge threw out her request to allow her backers to testify anonymously.

An alleged child-sex trafficker claimed that her three supporters might withdraw if she did not grant them the right of secrecy.

But Judge Alison Nathan slapped down the ‘unprecedented request’ by citing the ‘constitutional right’ of the press and public to know a courtroom witness’s identity.

Maxwell’s lawyer Bobbi Sternheim had claimed that unless the trio could testify in privacy, it could ‘impact the willingness of these witnesses to testify, thereby compromising Ms Maxwell’s right to present her defence’. 

The judge however said that if witnesses refuse to give evidence, their lawyers can issue a summons.

Maxwell (59) denies that she lured schoolgirls to Jeffrey Epstein’s clutches. Jeffrey Epstein killed himself in 2019.

As her defence got under way in New York’s Thurgood Marshall courthouse on day 11 of the trial yesterday, her former PA told jurors she thought the first alleged victim, ‘Jane’, had been 18.

Ghislaine Maxwell, 59, denies luring schoolgirls into the clutches of her paedophile boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself in 2019

Ghislaine, 59-year-old, has denied luring schoolgirls under the control of Jeffrey Epstein (her paedophile boyfriend), who committed suicide in 2019.

Maxwell’s lawyer Bobbi Sternheim had claimed that unless the trio could testify in privacy, it could ‘impact the willingness of these witnesses to testify, thereby compromising Ms Maxwell’s right to present her defence’

Maxwell’s lawyer Bobbi Sternheim had claimed that unless the trio could testify in privacy, it could ‘impact the willingness of these witnesses to testify, thereby compromising Ms Maxwell’s right to present her defence’ 

Cimberly Espinosa said when she met Jane – who testified she was forced to take part in orgies with Maxwell and Epstein at the age of 14 – she was introduced as ‘Jeffrey’s goddaughter’.

Mrs Espinosa, 55, Maxwell’s executive assistant from 1996 to 2002 and the first of her witnesses to take the stand, told jurors she remembered meeting Jane – a pseudonym – and her mother in financier Epstein’s Manhattan office.

She said: ‘Jane’s mother said that Jane was Jeffrey’s goddaughter. She was treated with respect by me and all the girls at the office. She was considered family of Jeffrey – special.’ 

Asked by Maxwell’s lawyer Christian Everdell how old she appeared, Mrs Espinosa replied: ‘Probably 18.’

Cimberly Espinosa said when she met Jane - who testified she was forced to take part in orgies with Maxwell and Epstein at the age of 14 - she was introduced as ‘Jeffrey’s goddaughter’

Cimberly Espinosa said when she met Jane – who testified she was forced to take part in orgies with Maxwell and Epstein at the age of 14 – she was introduced as ‘Jeffrey’s goddaughter’ 

Jane testified in evidence the first week. She told Maxwell and Epstein how she had been approached by them at school when she was 14 years old, and that they offered to help her follow her dreams of becoming an actor or singer.

They invited her to his villa in Palm Beach, Florida, where a ‘giggling’ Maxwell led her to the master bedroom and forced her into a ‘hands everywhere’ orgy with Epstein.

Yesterday Mrs Espinosa said her impression of Epstein and his supposed goddaughter had been that of ‘a loving relationship’.

She said for many years she kept in touch with Jane, who became a soap opera actress, and Jane had sent her signed photos from the soap’s cast with messages such as ‘With love, Jane’ and ‘Dearest Cimberly…take care, Jane.’

Mrs Espinosa said in her six years working for Maxwell at Epstein’s New York office, she only had admiration for her.

Jeffrey Epstein told fellow prisoners in the days before his suicide that 'stocks are like women', the billionaire pedophile's cellmate Bill Mersey has revealed

Mrs Espinosa said Maxwell and Epstein had been a ‘flirty’ couple when she first knew them in 1996 but by the 2000s ‘went their separate ways’ 

‘I highly respected Ghislaine. I looked up to her very much and learnt a lot from her,’ she said.

Jurors were told by her how Maxwell had helped her decorate the Caribbean private island Epstein purchased. This included importing art and palm trees. ‘You shipped in sand to a tropical island?’ asked Mr Everdell.

‘He wanted more sand on the beach,’ she replied.

Mrs Espinosa said Maxwell and Epstein had been a ‘flirty’ couple when she first knew them in 1996 but by the 2000s ‘went their separate ways’. 

Young women who were ‘over 18’ started appearing in the office, she said.

Mr Everdell asked her: ‘In all the years you worked for Ghislaine Maxwell, did you ever see her engage in inappropriate activity with underage girls?’ Mrs Espinosa replied: ‘Never.’

The cross-examination by prosecutor Lara Pomerantz lasted less than a minute, with only one question: ‘You never went to the Palm Beach house, did you?’

When Mrs Espinosa confirmed she had not, the prosecutor said: ‘No more questions, your honour.’

Maxwell pleaded not guilty in six cases of Epstein’s abuse of underage girls.

The trial is continuing.