Ghislaine, Prince Andrew and the Paedophile is, inevitably, depressing viewing. No matter how many times you see that photo of a grinning Andrew with his arm round Virginia Giuffre – like he’s won her in a raffle, Ghislaine Maxwell smiling indulgently on – or watch the Prince strolling with Jeffrey Epstein in Central Park, or hear the witnesses’ grim testimony, they never lose their power to sap one’s faith in humanity. Familiarity with such things certainly does breed contempt, so far as Maxwell, the Prince and Epstein are concerned.
This is how it should be, and Ranvir Singh’s documentary on the Maxwell trial comes as Epstein’s co-conspirator – a more fitting term than “madam” – awaits sentencing for the serious sexual trafficking offences for which she has now been convicted. Singh is a likeable, warm presenter, and she brings some extra edge to the story, divulging that she too was sexually assaulted when she was a young girl.
She sensitively re-tells the story of Maxwell and Epstein’s abuses, and Andrew’s relationship with the pair, and includes new interviews from friends of Epstein’s, survivors and staff. You’re particularly struck when victims, including Giuffre – and quite independently of one another – testify that their sense of betrayal at Maxwell was worse in a way than the damage Epstein caused.
Sarah Ransome, a survivor, explains it very eloquently: “Because she was a woman she normalised abuse, she perpetrated, she tortured me and others and she’s worse than Jeffrey, she broke the sisterhood, broke the bond, she was supposed to be protector and nurturer. She failed us.” You can see very clearly there why the jury in New York found that Maxwell herself was far from a co-victim of Epstein’s: he clearly couldn’t have done it without her.
There are some small but telling new revelations, mostly from Palace staff. Singh found Andrew’s phone number in Epstein’s famous little black book, and cheekily rang it – it still works. Andrew’s voicemail message was odder than you might expect, with just a tiny hint of that convoluted self-regard we saw in his weird Newsnight interview: “I’m afraid I’ve not been quick enough to get to the phone before it went to take your message. If you do have a message please leave it and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”
We also learn from a protection officer about how Maxwell had a virtually free pass to wander in and out of Buckingham Palace, suggesting she was once very close to the Prince, maybe closer than assumed. I don’t think, either, that we knew before that the Duke of York keeps a laminated photograph of his collection of cuddly toys so staff at Buckingham Palace can arrange them in the correct order on his bed after they’ve finished tidying his chambers – and if they don’t put the bears back properly he throws a wobbly. Neurosis or childishness? I should add, of course, that Andrew denies all the allegations against him, and, as far as he can be judged, hasn’t altered his line that he has no recollection of Giuffre.
As ever, though, there are many, many more questions left hanging. What did Donald Trump see in Epstein? Why did Bill Clinton, according to flight logs, travel nine times on the private plane nicknamed The Lolita Express? How exactly did Epstein make his huge fortune? How many victims are there?
Not least because of the much-maligned mainstream media and an independent judiciary, little by little, we will find out, and justice will be done.
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