Ghislaine Maxwell trial: ‘Lolita Express’ pilot describes flying alleged victims and says British socialite was Epstein’s ‘number two’

Prosecution expected to rest this week after final witnesses

Bevan Hurley
Thursday 09 December 2021 00:04 GMT
Photos used in trial show Ghislaine Maxwell rubbing Jeffrey Epstein's feet on his jet
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Ghislaine Maxwell flew on the maiden voyage of Jeffrey Epstein’s first private jet in 1991, the second of Epstein’s pilots to testify told a New York court on Wednesday.

David Rodgers recalled how he flew Epstein on thousands of flights between 1991 and 2019, and Ms Maxwell joined him on hundreds of those trips.

Mr Rodgers said his flight logs showed Ms Maxwell and Epstein had travelled on the disgraced financier’s recently-purchased Hawker Siddeley HS 125 on 26 July 1991 from Wilmington, Delaware, to Teterboro Airport in New Jersey.

The flight logs were entered into evidence, but passenger names had been redacted.

Ms Maxwell, 59, faces six charges: one each of enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in illegal sex acts, sex trafficking of a minor, and three counts of conspiracy related to the other counts.

She has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Epstein was arrested in July 2019 and died by suicide in prison a month later while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.

A photo released by prosecutors shows Ghislaine Maxwell giving Jeffrey Epstein a foot massage aboard a private jet
A photo released by prosecutors shows Ghislaine Maxwell giving Jeffrey Epstein a foot massage aboard a private jet (US District Attorney’s Office)

Mr Rodgers described Ms Maxwell as Epstein’s “Number 2”, and said she oversaw all of the pilots employed by Epstein, approving their vacations and expenses.

He said the pair were “romantically involved” during his first years working for Epstein, but the relationship ended and Ms Maxwell became his property manager.

Unlike the prosecution’s first witness Larry Visoski, Epstein’s pilot for 25 years, Mr Rodgers did not name any of the famous celebrities, politicians or musicians that were among his passengers.

Mr Rodgers also flew Epstein’s Gulfstream jet, which was purchased in 1994, and a Boeing 727 plane, that became known as the “Lolita Express”.

He recalled seeing the first accuser in Ms Maxwell’s trial, an actor who testified under the pseudonym Jane, for the first time in 1996.

He said he knew the date from his flight logs, as Jane’s real first name was written there.

He also flew Epstein to Traverse City Airport in Michigan about seven times when the late paedophile would visit Interlochen Center for the Arts.

It was at Interlochen that Jane testified she first met Epstein and Ms Maxwell when she was on a summer camp there in 1994 aged 14. She testified that she was sexually abused for years by Epstein.

During cross examination, Christian Everdell asked the pilot if he might have confused the date he first met Jane, as there was another woman in Epstein’s staff who shared her real first name.

Mr Rodgers said he was able to walk freely into the cabins during flights and never saw any signs of sexual activity, and was unaware of any girls under the age of 17 flying unaccompanied by a parent or guardian.

Ms Maxwell also flew on the second flight from Teterboro to Palm Beach International Airport on 26 July, and on dozens of other occasions to locations around the world.

Mr Rodgers testified that he flew Virginia Roberts Giuffre, the most prominent of Epstein’s accusers but not among those to testify in Ms Maxwell’s trial, more than 30 times.

Teterboro is favoured by New York’s private jet-flying class for its proximity to Manhattan, which is just 12 miles away.

Epstein in front of one of his private jets
Epstein in front of one of his private jets (PA)

Ms Maxwell’s father, the late media mogul Robert Maxwell, died in mysterious circumstances in November 1991 after falling off his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine.

Mr Rodgers said after her father’s death, Ms Maxwell moved from her “very large residence” on 59th St on Manhattan’s Upper East Side to a small studio apartment on 84th St.

Ms Maxwell’s defence attorneys objected to the pilot’s testimony that the socialite had been forced to “downsize” after her father’s death, but prosecutor Maurene Comey said the account “goes to motive” and she was allowed to proceed by Judge Alison Nathan.

Ms Maxwell later moved into a large five-storey townhouse in the late 1990s, the pilot said.

A previous accuser who testified under the pseudonym “Kate” told how Ms Maxwell boasted that Epstein “got her” a New York apartment.

And JP Morgan executive director Patrick McHugh testified earlier in the week that Epstein had wired $30.7m to Ms Maxwell.

Nicole Hesse, who worked for Ms Maxwell at Epstein’s Palm Beach house, testified on Wednesday
Nicole Hesse, who worked for Ms Maxwell at Epstein’s Palm Beach house, testified on Wednesday (REUTERS)

Earlier in the day, a witness who testified under his first name Shawn told the jury how he had driven his former girlfriend “Carolyn”, and two other teenage girls, to Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion.

Carolyn was the third accuser to testify that Ms Maxwell had groomed her to give sexualised massages to Epstein.

A former employee at the Palm Beach estate, Nicole Hesse, also gave evidence on Wednesday that one of her tasks was to take down phone messages on a pad when she worked there between 2003 and 2004.

Some message pads were introduced as evidence, including several which mentioned Carolyn’s name.

The prosecution is expected to call the fourth accuser Annie Farmer on Thursday, and rest its case this week.

For the defence, Mr Everdell said they had been caught off-guard by the shortened prosecution case.

“The government has shaved a considerable amount of this case off in the last day,” Mr Everdell said.

“We’re trying to hustle witnesses; it’s not that easy.”

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