Ghislaine Maxwell trial: who is Prince Andrew’s friend, what happened in court - and will she get a retrial?

Jeffrey Epstein’s former lover was found guilty of sex-trafficking in December 2021

Ghislaine Maxwell used to lead the high-life in New York, attending fundraisers, launches and weddings with the likes of Donald Trump and Bill and Hillary Clinton.

But this lifestyle soon disappeared for the British socialite as she faced mounting allegations of sex abuse alongside her ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein and their friend Prince Andrew.

Sign up to our NationalWorld Today newsletter

Maxwell now finds herself in prison awaiting sentencing having been found guilty of sex-trafficking charges in December 2021.

So, what happened during the 60-year-old’s trial - and why are her lawyers seeking a retrial?

Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial is set to kick off on 29 November and is expected to last for six weeks (image: AFP/Getty Images)

Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?

Ghislaine Maxwell initially became famous through her late father, the media tycoon and ex-MP Robert Maxwell.

Born on Christmas day in 1961, she was the youngest of the former Daily Mirror owner’s nine children and was rumoured to be his favourite.

After completing a degree at Oxford University, Maxwell was put in charge of football club Oxford United, which her dad owned at the time.

But just short of her 30th birthday in November 1991, Robert Maxwell was found dead off the coast of the Canary Islands having apparently fallen overboard from the yacht he had named after her - Lady Ghislaine.

Ghislaine Maxwell’s dad, the media tycoon Robert Maxwell, died in 1991 having apparently fallen from his yacht ‘Lady Ghislaine' (image: AFP/Getty Images)

After Robert Maxwell’s mysterious death, it emerged that he had left a £460m hole in his companies’ pension funds to keep his firms afloat and boost their share prices.

With her family’s fortune depleted and its status in tatters, Maxwell soon moved to the USA and started a career in real estate.

Around this time, she met the financier Jeffrey Epstein and the pair began a romantic relationship.

Epstein was believed to be extremely wealthy, owning large properties in New York and Florida, as well as an entire Caribbean island - although the source of his fortune was unknown.

Even after their relationship ended, Maxwell and Epstein remained close - she was believed to have acted as a confidante and personal assistant to him.

When did allegations about Maxwell first surface?

The first public hint of the accusations the pair would go on to face came in 2008 when Epstein was jailed for 18 months by a Florida state court having pleaded guilty to prostituting underage girls.

In 2015, allegations emerged in court documents in Florida that Prince Andrew had had sex with Virginia Giuffre, née Roberts, who was 17 at the time and therefore considered underage in the state of Florida.

The papers said the encounters took place in 2001 at a number of locations, including at Maxwell’s home in Belgravia, London.

Prince Andrew sought to tackle the sex abuse allegations made against him in a now infamous 2019 interview with Emily Maitlis (image: BBC/PA)

A US civil case in which Prince Andrew will face Ms Giuffre’s sexual assault allegations is set to take place in late 2022.

Ms Giuffre accused Maxwell of recruiting her to work as Epstein’s masseuse at his Florida residence when she was 15-years-old - a job that she said had led to her being sexually abused by Epstein.

Maxwell was then sued by Giuffre for suggesting she had lied in these documents - a case that was settled out of court.

In 2016, Maxwell sold her New York townhouse and all but disappeared from public life.

She was then arrested by the FBI in July 2020 on charges related to Epstein, who had killed himself in a prison cell in August 2019 while awaiting a sex trafficking trial.

What happened at Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial?

The trial began on 29 November 2021, with US commentators saying the case was essentially going to be a proxy for the trial Jeffrey Epstein was due to face before his suicide.

Ghislaine Maxwell faces a number of charges relating to the sexual abuse and sex trafficking of underage girls (image: Getty Images)

Maxwell faced six charges from federal prosecutors at her trial that were said to have taken place between 1994 and 2004, including:

  • Conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts
  • Conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity
  • Transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity
  • Conspiracy to commit sex-trafficking
  • Sex trafficking of minors
  • Enticement of an individual under the age of 17 to travel with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity

She also faced two separate perjury charges.

Ghislaine Maxwell was described by accusers as Jeffrey Epstein’s ‘partner in crime' (image: handout/PA)

Maxwell pleaded not guilty on all counts, but was found guilty of five out of the six charges - the last charge being the only one she was not guilty of.

The prosecution’s case centred around the testimony of some of four women who had been abused by Maxwell and Epstein when they were girls, as well as physical evidence gathered from Epstein’s homes - including a green folding massage table.

All four women detailed how the pair would lure them in with money, friendship and promises of favours, before “partner in crime” Maxwell would use massages as a way of getting the girls to touch Epstein.

She would then normalise their subsequent molestation and abuse by walking into the room with the girls and sometimes remaining in the room while these acts took place.

Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty of five of the six charges against her in December 2021 (image: Getty Images)

Further testimony came from Epstein’s former house manager, Juan Alessi, who listed in graphic detail a cycle of daily abuse that included three massages a day and sex toys.

Maxwell’s lawyers spent just two days delivering their case for the defence.

They sought to poke holes in the case by questioning the accusers’ memories and motives.

It appeared to be an attempt to hamper the requirement for the prosecution to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

However, her defence did not win over the jurors and Maxwell now faces up to 65 years in prison when she is sentenced in June 2022.

Why are Maxwell’s lawyers seeking a retrial?

Soon after the trial concluded, a juror told media that he had convinced other members of the jury to believe the testimony of Maxwell’s victims because of his own history of sexual abuse.

Unlike in the UK where it is illegal for jury members to talk about deliberations over a case, US jurors are able to speak freely once a trial has concluded.

Using his first and middle names, Scotty David said some of his fellow jurors had been wavering over the women’s credibility.

"I know what happened when I was sexually abused. I remember the colour of the carpet, the walls. Some of it can be replayed like a video," he said he told the jury, according to The Independent and Reuters. "But I can’t remember all the details, there are some things that run together."

"When I shared that, they were able to come around on the memory aspect of the sexual abuse."

Ghislaine Maxwell’s defence lawyer Bobbi Sternheim has filed a motion for a retrial (image: AFP/Getty Images)

The man also revealed he “flew through” the juror questionnaire used before the trial to find out whether potential jurors were in a position to judge Maxwell fairly.

He said he did not recall being asked about his experiences of sexual abuse, but added that he would’ve answered honestly if he had been.

This revelation led to Maxwell’s lawyers filing a motion for a retrial on wednesday (19 January).

It’s not yet known what chance she stands of securing a retrial.

A message from the editor:

Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our email newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.