It was 1973 and I had no idea that the timid 12-year old girl dressed in a pattern white dress, who was walking fearlessly down Headington Hill Hall’s wide staircase in Oxford, would go on to become a worldwide celebrity as a trafficker of under-aged girls for a paedophile.

While standing in the hall alongside her disgraced father Robert Maxwell, a disgraced tycoon who was also a Labour MP, I watched as Ghislaine Maxwell waited patiently for Robert’s permission, before heading into the enormous dining room to have Sunday lunch with her sisters and brothers.

Robert Maxwell made that week’s lunch into an act of vengeance every week. When Maxwell was questioning his children on world affairs, it became a furious rage. Any child found guilty was physically beaten by the tyrant in front of his peers.

Even as her father’s favourite, Ghislaine could expect little protection.

‘Bob would shout and threaten and rant at the children until they were reduced to pulp,’ Betty Maxwell would write about her husband after his death.

While she collaborated with the beatings of her children just as she connived in her husband’s career of deceit and fraud, Betty admitted that she neglected Ghislaine.

‘I was devastated,’ Betty would later recall when her daughter had exclaimed to get attention: ‘Mummy, I exist.’

Ghislaine Maxill is facing the end of her life in prison today, nearly half a century later. Many people will be wondering if the socialite and disgraced, 60-year-old, was the victim of Jeffrey Epstein or her father. 

Standing in the hall with her father, disgraced tycoon and former Labour MP Robert Maxwell (right), I watched with amazement as Ghislaine Maxwell (left) waited for his permission

As Robert Maxwell, a disgraced businessman and ex-Labour MP (right), stood in the hall, I was captivated as Ghislaine Maxwell (left), waited for my permission.

This intelligent and engaging woman was fated to be bound to two men who lust after money and power.

History might say that Ghislaine’s destiny was inevitable. She would spend years in a cell with criminals as a child.

She could only live and love rich, powerful, domineering men – and that weakness had drawn her to Jeffrey Epstein. 

Many would agree that, being a highly educated adult, she should already know the difference.

Her life’s ambition was to be famous – not infamous. It is still unknown why this dream failed.

Whatever the outcome, it was a shock to all who knew her. Ghislaine too has seen her limp to her bench in court for several weeks with crippled leg irons.

The Christmas Day of 1961 saw her born with a silver spoon in the mouth. She grew up in extraordinary wealth.

Her father, a military spy, newspaper proprietor, journalist, MP, print producer, filmmaker, and printer, was an enormous success story. 

Even though he was famous by 1971, the Government investigated and found that he had been dishonest.

People in Westminster and the City assumed Robert Maxwell would be permanently exterminated. They missed his determination. 

Known as ‘Jungle Man’, Maxwell was an astonishing survivor, a characteristic he taught his children. 

Maxwell built his fortune in the 1980s through savvy deals and incredible opportunism.

Undated handout photo issued by US Department of Justice of Ghislaine Maxwell with Jeffrey Epstein

Undated handout photo by US Department of Justice of Ghislaine MAXELL with Jeffrey Epstein

Ghislaine was able to enjoy the following: chauffeur-driven cars and Concorde flights, private jets, luxury holidays aboard Lady Ghislaine, as well as chauffeur-driven cars.

Maxwell is renowned as an explosive megalomaniac, global powerbroker and bombastic megalomaniac. He moved among the White House and Downing Street, the Kremlin and leaders from France, Germany, and Israel. 

Immersed in Maxwell’s life, Ghislaine became a junkie for power, money and celebrity in her own right.

But her father’s legacy was poisonous. With Maxwell’s blessing, Ghislaine adopted his worst characteristics: selfish arrogance and rudeness tempered by an ability to charm when required. She couldn’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality, nor right from wrong.

She grew to worship her father’s extraordinary charisma. Accompanying him as his friend and confidante, she watched Mr Fixit win honest people’s trust by flattery, seduction, manipulation and deception. 

Media proprietor and fraudster, Robert Maxwell (1923 - 1991) at a party on his yacht with daughter Ghislaine and wife Elisabeth (1921 - 2013) circa 1990

Robert Maxwell, media owner and fraudster (1923-91), at a yacht party with his daughter Ghislaine (21-2013), circa 1990

His common currency was lies. Philip Okill, a senior employee, once dared to tell Maxwell to his face: ‘Mr Maxwell, you’re the sincerest liar I have ever met.’

As Okill would later recall: ‘Maxwell took that as a compliment.’

‘The ego has landed’ was the memorable newspaper headline over a photograph of the fat tycoon, known as Captain Bob, stepping off his helicopter on to the roof of the Mirror Group’s headquarters in Central London. 

Ghislaine, a status-seeker and ambitious woman in her own right was reminiscent of him. Educated at Balliol, one of Oxford’s most prestigious colleges, Ghislaine was far from stupid. 

After a London policeman stopped her for drunken driving, she congratulated the startled officer for spotting her – and got away with it. 

‘She’d ask for a cigarette,’ complained one of her father’s secretaries in the Mirror’s headquarters, ‘and walk off with the packet.’

Ghislaine had good reason to be oblivious to those who called her a ‘21-carat spoilt brat’. 

At the height of Maxwell’s wealth and fame in 1988, her father confided that if she failed to become a millionairess at 30 ‘and falls flat on her face, I’ll be there to help her up and tell her to try again’.

Although she probably did not know that he was gambling away the Mirror Group’s pension funds through a series of grotesque frauds, she must have been suspicious when, on November 5, 1990, her father put her on Concorde to New York with an envelope.

She found share certificates inside, which she gave to attorneys. After spending the day indulging herself in Manhattan’s shops, she flew back to London and handed the signed documents to Maxwell. 

And so she found herself enmeshed in Maxwell’s plot to plunder about £2billion from his companies’ shareholders. 

Ghislaine was his representative at the New York dinner honoring Simon Wiesenthal in that spirit of obedience egoism.

Robert Maxwell and his daughter Ghislaine watch the Oxford v Brighton football match, October 13, 1984

Robert Maxwell with his daughter Ghislaine, Oct 13, 1984.

After that, she called Maxwell who was at the time visiting President Gorbachev’s Moscow home. It was an absurd tirade that she received as her reward. ‘I am very sorry that my description of the dinner this morning was inadequate and made you angry,’ she said in a written apology.

‘I should have expressed at the start of our conversation that I was merely presenting you with a preliminary report of the evening and that a full written report was to follow.’ 

The 29-year-old then gave a long description of how every guest praised her father and ended: ‘I will call you again tomorrow to receive your precise instructions for the Kennedy wedding.’

Soon afterwards, she moved to New York – a city which had only recently been made aware of her overbearing father, when he bought New York’s Daily News for an inflated price in March 1991. All TV stations broadcast videos of Maxwell boasting about his wealth and Ghislaine dancing non-stop.

That changed on November 5, 1991 when Maxwell’s body was found floating off Tenerife.

‘I’m in charge of the yacht now,’ Ghislaine told the yacht’s captain. ‘You’ll take your orders from me. I’m thinking of doing charters in the Caribbean.’ Such ambitions evaporated as Maxwell’s frauds were exposed and toys such as the yacht were seized and sold.

Ghislaine decided to make a comeback in New York. She sought comfort in her friends and met Jeffrey Epstein (38-year-old financier) who was suspected to be involved in the $450 million fraud.

Epstein, despite being sentenced to 20 years in prison for his partner’s crimes, escaped prosecution. Better still, he had become the financial manager of Leslie Wexner, the billionaire founder of Victoria’s Secret, from whom Epstein would eventually steal at least $42 million.

Epstein’s introduction was a miracle. She needed money – and was smitten. Epstein needed help organizing his life and someone who could keep track of the contacts that would allow him to get in touch with the powerful and wealthy.

Many will wonder whether the disgraced socialite, who turned 60 on Christmas Day, is the victim of two monsters: her father and Jeffrey Epstein

Many people will be wondering if the socialite who has been disgraced, turning 60 this Christmas Day, was the victim of Jeffrey Epstein and her father.

As the court has found, Ghislaine was his pimp, too, helping orchestrate what her accusers described as ‘a pyramid scheme of abuse’. In a bygone era she would have been dubbed the Mobster’s Moll.

Maxwell and Epstein shared many things. Both were highly skilled conmen. The big difference was that Maxwell’s businesses – publishing, printing and the media – started honest. 

Epstein’s operations were shady from the beginning, based, as they were, on moving funds offshore to launder dirty money and evade taxes due.

Ghislaine was still emotionally dependent and sought the approval of this father figure. After Epstein called her complaining about his cold and interrupted her lunch, Ghislaine rushed to get the best chicken soup New York had to offer.

It is not clear what their sexuality was. She seemed to be in love with her but it doesn’t seem like she has reciprocated. 

Ghislaine was not surprised to learn that Epstein had a passion for girls under age and his bizarre habits. But there are no doubts about her attraction to sexual perversion.

Epstein and her stopped being sexual partners at around 2000. She continued to run his operations. That was interrupted in 2007, however, when Florida’s state police arrested Epstein for sex offences with under-aged girls.

Initial fears began to wane when Epstein’s lawyers negotiated an astonishing deal with the prosecutors. 

In exchange for his guilty plea, the financier received a sentence of 18 months imprisonment instead of a lengthy sentence in prison. 

His plea deal protected the named female staff members from being prosecuted. Ghislaine was however not identified. It was assumed that Ghislaine wasn’t a target of the prosecutors.

Epstein was freed from prison in 2010 and began to rebuild his name. Harvard University granted Epstein permission to set up an office in Boston.

Some of his guests were Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and Wall Street bankers. He also hosted renowned scientists. Ghislaine was the host. 

Ghislaine Maxwell, youngest child of media proprietor and fraudster, Robert Maxwell, holding a framed photograph of her late father, Jerusalem, Israel, November 9, 1991

Ghislaine Maxwell is the youngest of Robert Maxwell’s media fraudsters and media owners. She holds a frame photograph of her father in Jerusalem (Israel), November 9, 1991.

They flocked to his hospitality in Manhattan’s biggest private house, aboard his giant yacht, his private jet and on his own sun-kissed island. 

For some girls, the attraction of gorgeous girls was an additional draw. Epstein gifted Ghislaine $30million in recognition of her loyalty. She also gave her her Manhattan home. 

She had every reason for believing that her gold-gilded life would last forever. The world fell in 2011. 

A picture was published in newspapers showing Andrew holding Virginia Roberts’ arm, which Virginia Roberts was then 17 years old.

This 2001 photograph also shows Ghislaine smiling. It was taken at her London home. Roberts would claim to have had sex with Andrew in Ghislaine’s bath – an allegation which Andrew strenuously denies.

Just as Andrew’s reputation was shredded, so Ghislaine’s social life in America evaporated. She was immediately dropped by almost all Americans, including the Clintons.

She refused to lose as a Maxwell. It was then that the survival gene began to kick in. Determined not to be tarred by Epstein’s notoriety, she began appearing at international conferences, campaigning to clean the world’s oceans.

It was around this time that I last met Ghislaine at a riotous property developers’ party in St Tropez. 

During our conversation, she appeared detached, hard and totally uninterested in her father’s past. Maxwells don’t show emotions. Her eyes were blurred. She couldn’t have foreseen what lay ahead.

Virginia Roberts sued Maxwell in 2014 and Epstein. Then, she committed the same fatal mistake that Robert Maxwell would have made.

Ghislaine decided to take the best legal advice in order to save her life and instead she gave sworn testimony to support Epstein, her benefactor.

It got worse. In November 2018, Epstein’s crimes and the sweetheart deal he had struck with Florida’s benign prosecutor were exposed in The Miami Herald.

FBI was forced to reopen the case. About 40 women were interviewed. Epstein was detained nine months later. 

Even so, she felt safe. She hid in America and flew to France, where extradition would be impossible because she was a French passport-holder.

Epstein could have gone free had she lived. Her fate was decided instead. Epstein was found in death inside of his prison cell. And embarrassed, the prosecutors began to focus on Epstein’s accomplice.

Ghislaine was arrested in an explosion of publicity and had lost any chance of making a deal against Epstein’s prosecutors.

In Britain she could have convinced a jury that the accusers failed to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt. But in New York, the time she’d spent in close proximity to a convicted paedophile was to prove fatal.

Many people believe she is worthy of everything. Some, such as me, believe her monstrous dad should have been there with her at the dock in spirit, if not physically.

Maxwell:The Final Verdict is written by Tom Bower.