The first incident, the Lolita Express and the Duke of York: Key moments from week one of Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial

US

Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend of Jeffrey Epstein, is currently on trial, facing eight charges – including six counts of enticing minors and sex trafficking.

Spanning a 10-year period from 1994 to 2004, the 59-year-old British socialite’s charges involve four alleged underage victims – with the youngest just 14 years old at the time.

Maxwell, the daughter of former media mogul Robert Maxwell, could be sentenced to 80 years in prison if found guilty of all counts.

She has denied all of the charges and has pleaded not guilty.

So as the first week of her trial comes to an end, here’s what has happened so far:

The ‘partners in crime’ ​​​​​​

During the prosecution’s opening statement, the court heard that Maxwell targeted young girls and manipulated them before “serving them up for sexual abuse” to Jeffrey Epstein – who killed himself in 2019, while in jail awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

More on Ghislaine Maxwell

“She preyed on vulnerable young girls, manipulated them, and served them up to be sexually abused,” federal prosecutor Lara Pomerantz told jurors.

Ms Pomerantz also said Maxwell and Epstein were “partners in crime” and described them as “dangerous predators who sexually exploited and abused” children for a decade.

At the start of the trial, she said the pair enticed girls as young as 14 to engage in “so-called massages” in which sex abuse came to be seen as “casual and normal” after vulnerable victims were showered with money and gifts.

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Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?

‘The Lolita Express’

The first witness to be called to the stand in Maxwell’s trial was one of Epstein’s long-time pilots – a man named Larry Visoski.

Epstein’s plane was nicknamed “The Lolita Express” after allegations emerged that he had used it to fly teenage girls to his private island, his New Mexico ranch and his New York City townhouse.

Discussing Maxwell, Mr Visoski told the court she was “number two” to her ex-partner, with the convicted sex offender “definitely the big number one”.

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Jeffrey Epstein with a jet

The Duke of York

Throughout his testimony, Mr Visoki recalled a number of famous people travelling on Epstein’s planes, including Prince Andrew, former US president Donald Trump and Kevin Spacey.

When asked by the defence if the Duke of York ever flew onboard the planes, Mr Visoksi said: “Yes he did” – but he could not recall the exact dates.

Mr Visoski said Mr Trump “flew on them a number of times” and recalled how he would have to make the aircraft “look nice” for former president Bill Clinton.

Along with Kevin Spacey, Mr Visoski mentioned actor Chris Tucker, Prince Andrew’s accuser Virginia Giuffre and another alleged victim who has been given the name “Jane” for Maxwell’s trial.

However, he refuted any claims that he ever saw any sexual activity on flights.

Prince Andrew has categorically denied all of the allegations made against him.

The prince previously said the sexual encounters 'didn't happen' and suggested a photo showing him with Ms Giuffre may have been doctored. Pic: Shutterstock
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Prince Andrew with Virginia Giuffre. Pic: Shutterstock

The ‘lady of the house’

Epstein’s former housekeeper also testified, telling the court that Maxwell first appeared on the scene in 1991 and introduced herself as the “lady of the house”.

Juan Alessi said the defendant instructed him not to make eye contact with Epstein and gave him a 58-page document of “degrading” rules, including “making sure hundred dollar bills were in every car” and running the financier’s Palm Beach mansion “like a five-star hotel”.

Mr Alessi also recalled driving alleged victim Jane, and Virginia Giuffre to Epstein’s Palm Beach estate when both girls appeared to be around 14 or 15.

During his testimony, he said he saw Jane’s contact details in Epstein’s telephone directory, listed under “masseuses”.

He added that “many, many, many females”, most appearing in their 20s, visited the house while he was working there from 1990 to 2002.

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell attend Batman Forever/R. McDonald Event on 13 June 1995 in New York City. Pic: Patrick McMullan 1995/Sky UK
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Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 1995. Pic: Sky UK

The first accuser

The first accuser in the trial, who is using the pseudonym “Jane” to protect her 22-year acting career, testified in graphic detail about her alleged abuse at the hands of Epstein, portraying Maxwell as an active participant.

The actor, who has played numerous television roles such as a cancer patient, a car crash victim and a prostitute, claims she was first abused by the convicted paedophile when she was just 14 years old.

The music camp

During her court appearance, Jane described how she first met Epstein and Maxwell in 1994 while she was attending a music camp in pursuit of a singing career.

She said she was eating ice cream with friends when Maxwell approached with a Yorkshire Terrier, drawing their attention.

After her friends left, she spoke with Epstein, who had then arrived and introduced himself as a donor, and they discovered that they both lived in Palm Beach, Florida, she told the court.

A courtroom sketch shows Ghislaine Maxwell seated at the defence table while watching testimony of witnesses during her trial. Pic: AP
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A courtroom sketch shows Ghislaine Maxwell seated at the defence table. Pic: AP

The first incident

The cycle of Jane’s alleged abuse began one day in 1994 when Epstein abruptly took her by hand and said, “follow me,” before taking her to a pool house at his Palm Beach home.

Then he pulled down his pants, pulled her close and “proceeded to masturbate,” Jane told jurors.

“I was frozen in fear,” she said. “I’d never seen a penis before.”

She testified that she did not tell anyone about what had happened inside the pool house, adding: “I was terrified and felt gross and I felt ashamed.”

Soon, Epstein and Maxwell were taking her shopping for clothes, including underwear from Victoria’s Secret, bringing her on trips to the cinema and having discussions about sex, she said.

Jeffrey Epstein's house in Palm Beach, pictured in 2019. Pic: AP
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Jeffrey Epstein’s house in Palm Beach, pictured in 2019. Pic: AP

The massage room

As part of her testimony, Jane also told the court that she was taken to a massage room where Maxwell and Epstein both took advantage of her.

“There were hands everywhere and Jeffrey proceeded to masturbate again,” she said.

She detailed how the British socialite was often in the room when Epstein had sexual interactions with her, saying Maxwell was “very casual” and acted “like it was no big deal”.

Jane claimed the defendant instructed her on how to give Epstein sexual massages and sometimes physically participated in the encounters as well.

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Maxwell ‘unlikely’ to testify

The photos

As part of the proceedings against Maxwell, a number of photos demonstrating Epstein’s lavish lifestyle were shown to the court.

They included pictures of his houses in the US Virgin Islands and New Mexico, his private island, inside one of his jets and his helicopter.

Another showed Maxwell with a woman, reported to be Epstein’s personal assistant, Sarah Kellen.

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Little Saint James, Epstein’s island
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Epstein’s helicopter
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Ghislaine Maxwell with woman reported to be Sarah Kellen
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Inside Epstein’s jet

The compensation

During the defence’s opening statements, Maxwell’s attorney Bobbi Sternheim said that Jane was a “pro at playing roles” and was motivated to implicate Maxwell by her claim to a compensation fund for Epstein’s victims.

Jane told the court she had received $5m from the fund.

“I wish I would have never received that money in the first place,” Jane said after a long, tearful pause. “Hopefully this just puts it all to an end and I can move on with my life.”

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Zorro Ranch in New Mexico

The defence

Throughout the week, the defence team has argued that Maxwell is “on trial as a scapegoat for Epstein”.

In their opening statement, Ms Sternheim said: “Ever since Eve has been blamed for tempting Adam with an apple, women have been blamed for things men have done.”

She said that Maxwell is “not anything like Jeffrey Epstein”, adding that he was the “proverbial elephant in the room”.

Artist's impression of Ghislaine Maxwell and her lawyer Bobbi Sternheim in court
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Artist’s impression of Ghislaine Maxwell and her lawyer Bobbi Sternheim in court

Maxwell’s defence team have also attempted to tear holes in Jane’s testimony, attacking her credibility and questioning why she waited more than 20 years to report the alleged abuse.

Defence lawyer Laura Menninger also questioned why Jane brought two personal injury lawyers along to her first meeting with the FBI.

Ms Menninger confronted Jane with FBI documents from 2019 and 2020, saying she had told the government her memory was foggy on whether Maxwell was present when Epstein molested her and on whether she ever touched her.

Other documents claimed she said that no abuse occurred during a visit to Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico – a claim that contradicts her testimony about alleged encounters with him there.

Jane has denied ever changing her story, instead challenging the accuracy of the documents by saying her statements were never recorded.

The trial continues

Watch special programme covering what happened in the trial
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Watch special programme covering what happened in the trial

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