Armed officers smashed down the front door of Ghislaine Maxwell’s secret hideaway before hauling her off in handcuffs.
As dramatic new details about the raid which led to the capture of Prince Andrew’s close friend emerge, The Mail on Sunday can also reveal:
- FBI spy planes flew above the £800,000 home, Tuckedaway, where Maxwell was staying from 4.20am – four hours before the bust – to ensure she didn’t flee;
- The stunned socialite ‘barely registered’ having handcuffs slapped on her wrists;
- Maxwell’s capture followed a £4 million, year-long ‘cat-and-mouse’ hunt for her by the FBI which saw her slip through their net at least once;
- Lawyers for victims admitted a conviction is ‘no slam-dunk’ and fear she will potentially seek to escape justice by using a controversial 2008 plea deal that allowed paedophile Jeffrey Epstein to serve just 13 months, mostly on day release;
- Her legal team vowed ‘This is war’ as she prepared for the possibility of life behind bars in one of New York’s toughest jails.
Armed officers smashed down the front door of Ghislaine Maxwell’s secret New Hampshire hideaway before hauling her off in handcuffs, an officer has told the Mail
The raid on the 156-acre property where Maxwell was staying in Bradford, New Hampshire, swung into action at 8.20am on Thursday when 24 armed FBI agents, officers from the local police force, New York police and New Hampshire’s gang task force used bolt-cutters to break the lock on a metal gate leading to the secluded property that she bought for cash last December.
An officer told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We drove at speed up the half-mile driveway in a convoy of 15 vehicles. And let’s just say, we didn’t knock politely on the door. It was smashed down.
‘Maxwell was up and dressed, in the living room, wearing sweat pants and a top. Strangely she didn’t seem to have much reaction. It was like it wasn’t registering with her.
‘She was turned around quickly and cuffed. She was in custody in a matter of seconds.’
The raid on the 156-acre property where Maxwell was staying in Bradford, New Hampshire, swung into action at 8.20am on Thursday with 24 armed FBI agents and police officers
Neighbours were alerted four hours earlier at 4.20am when they heard planes overhead.
Dick Morris, 59, a carpenter who lives opposite, said: ‘I heard what I first thought was a para plane, basically an engine with a seat and parachute, which is common around here. You hear one for ten minutes and it’s gone. But this went on and on.
‘I went out to load my truck at 7am and the plane was still going. I thought, “What the heck is this guy doing buzzing around and around?” ‘I peered up through the trees and caught a glimpse of a small Cessna-type plane high up and buzzing in a wide circle.
‘Then I noticed another plane so there were two of them, like opposite sides of a circle, this high-altitude circle of planes buzzing around and around.
‘Later I realised it had to be the FBI making sure she didn’t leave before the raid team got there.’
An officer told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We drove at speed up the half-mile driveway in a convoy of 15 vehicles. And let’s just say, we didn’t knock politely on the door. It was smashed down’
An insider with knowledge of the year-long hunt said FBI agents have been ‘on her tail’ since last August when Epstein killed himself in a New York jail after being arrested on child prostitution and trafficking charges.
A staged photograph of Maxwell sitting outside a branch of In’N’Out Burger in Los Angeles was released by friends days later, but investigators concluded it was a ruse to throw them off the scent.
The source said: ‘This has taken millions of dollars and hundreds of man hours. At least five million bucks, maybe more.
A mystery man is seen at the New Hampshire property Tuckedaway owned by Ghislaine Maxwell following her arrest on Thursday
‘The FBI has been tracking her for a year. They had her, then they lost her. She was in Colorado and Wyoming then they lost her until she showed up in New Hampshire. It’s been a high-stakes game of cat and mouse.
‘They had to build a case and put it in front of a grand jury. These things take time. She slipped through the net once but as soon as the grand jury came back with an indictment ten days ago, it was on.’
Local police only learned of the raid on Wednesday night but FBI agents had been massing in the area from Monday onwards.
Last night, a lawyer closely involved with the case warned Maxwell’s conviction on multiple charges of child sex abuse on three victims, one aged just 14, between 1994 and 1997 was ‘no slam dunk.’
‘This is a very tough one to prosecute. The offences took place 26 years ago. Her lawyers will rip apart the victims and their witnesses,’ said the lawyer.
‘They’ve had time to prepare and have vast financial resources. They will be screaming about Covid, they will be screaming that it all happened so long ago, they will claim she was a victim of Epstein too.’
Meanwhile, a source with knowledge of Maxwell’s defence says her team ‘is preparing for war’, adding: ‘They’ve had a year to anticipate this. She has money to put the best legal team in place.
‘We anticipated this day would come. She’s in the fight of her life and not going down quietly. She insists she’s innocent and always has done.’
It is understood that Maxwell, who has always denied any wrongdoing and knowledge of Epstein’s crimes, believes she is protected by the 2008 plea deal in which Epstein admitted two charges of child prostitution in return for a lenient sentence and immunity for others.
‘That deal offered immunity to any potential co-conspirators of Epstein. That deal could be Maxwell’s get-out-of-jail-free card,’ the source added.
Despite having £16 million in the bank and British, French and US passports, The Mail on Sunday has been told that Maxwell’s lawyers strategically told her not to leave the US after Epstein’s suicide.
‘They will argue she had a chance to leave but did not. That will go in her favour as far as making bail,’ said an insider. ‘It’s likely she will have her passports seized and wear an ankle monitor. Her lawyers will also offer round-the-clock security to prove she’s not a flight risk.’
- Conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts (5 years max sentence)
- Enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts (20 years)
- Conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity (20 years)
- Transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity (10 years minimum, life maximum)
- X 2 counts of Perjury (x 10 years)
Prosecutors say Maxwell groomed three girls between 1994 and 1997 for Epstein.
They are not named in the indictment, but she allegedly targeted them in London, Florida, New York and New Mexico.
Maxwell, it is alleged, would befriend the girls by asking them about their life and their schooling. She would put them at ease by taking them to the movies and taking them shopping, winning their trust to later deliver them to Epstein, it’s alleged.
To ‘normalize’ the abuse that would come later, prosecutors say she undressed in front of the girls herself and asked them sexual questions.
She then not only facilitated Epstein abusing them, prosecutors say, but took part in some of it herself.
The alleged sex abuse includes ‘sexualized group massages’.
The indictment also says Maxwell made the girl feel ‘indebted’ to Epstein by encouraging them to take money from him and let him pay for their education and travel.
Maxwell last night remained at the Merrimack County Jail in Boscawen, New Hampshire. She is expected to move to New York’s Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn as early as tomorrow, ahead of a court appearance on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The MDC is not the jail where Epstein killed himself but it is equally tough. ‘It’s about ten miles from the Epstein mansion but might as well be another world,’ said a source. ‘Inmates wear orange polyester jumpsuits.’
Maxwell will be held in isolation in an 8ft by 10ft cell and US Attorney General William Barr has ‘personally called’ prosecutors in the Southern District of New York to say: ‘No harm must come to her.’
‘After the debacle with Epstein nothing can happen to her,’ said a source close to the case.
It is understood that US prosecutor Audrey Strauss will consider a plea deal. ‘It depends who Maxwell will give up. We know she was involved with people at the highest levels of government, industry and society.
‘If she has proof which will lead to the conviction of bigger fish then she will be able to plea-bargain her way down,’ said the source.
Ms Strauss last week repeated a request to speak to Prince Andrew. Negotiations with his team continue and a source claimed they have contacted the US Department of Justice twice in the last month to discuss how he could help, but their emails have gone unanswered.
A friend of the Prince said: ‘Why is the Department of Justice throwing the Duke of York under a bus by talking about him at the press conference for the arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell? It’s disgraceful.’
Prince Andrew has repeatedly and vehemently denied claims that he had sex with Virginia Roberts on three occasions, the first in 2001 when she was 17 and trafficked to London by Epstein.
The book that damns Ghislaine Maxwell… and she was even reading it herself as FBI agents closed in on her hideaway: Written by a lawyer who’s been pursuing Jeffrey Epstein for a decade, here we reveal the evidence that must have made her squirm
The dramatic arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell last week would have been a proud moment for Bradley Edwards, the US lawyer who has devoted his life to securing justice for young women abused by Jeffrey Epstein.
In his gripping book, Relentless Pursuit, stories from which we summarised earlier this year, Edwards revealed the appalling scale of Epstein’s crimes. Now, as Maxwell faces up to 35 years in jail and contemplates helping the FBI, we reveal the book’s shocking claims about Maxwell’s involvement in Epstein’s years of abuse…
With her high society connections, Ghislaine Maxwell had everything financier Jeffrey Epstein needed at the height of their relationship. And in material terms, he had everything she could possibly want, and more. This strange, intense pair were inseparable for almost two decades, sleeping in the same bed and travelling together on private planes all over the world.
Maxwell was the one woman who, by all appearances, Epstein treated as his equal. Sometimes she even referred to him privately as her husband.
And as Bradley Edwards, an American lawyer who made it his life’s mission to bring Epstein to justice, was to discover, Maxwell was seemingly complicit in her paedophile ex-lover’s appalling crimes.
She has always vehemently and repeatedly denied all of the allegations that have been made against her. But victim after victim has claimed that she was a pivotal figure in Epstein’s sordid ‘sex cult’. Her apparent role in life, it was claimed, was to please Epstein and help secure, and instruct, a steady supply of girls and young women for the paedophile to abuse.
Witnesses described how Maxwell so adored Epstein that she would seemingly do anything for him, including bringing him other girls. She was powerfully persuasive in making them like Epstein, with the mysterious financier’s supposed brilliance, and his powerful friends, central to her pitch.
Mr Edwards first came across Maxwell’s name in 2008 when he was preparing to represent a group of victims who claimed they had been abused at Epstein’s mansion in Palm Beach, Florida.
Mr Edwards was passed a set of old-style telephone message pads that had been gathered by Palm Beach detectives who had first investigated the disturbing allegations. Handwritten messages revealed the names of everybody who had phoned Epstein’s home over a period of months in 2005.
CONNECTIONS: With tycoon Epstein at height of their relationship in 1995. Witnesses described how Maxwell, pictured left, so adored Epstein, pictured right, that she would seemingly do anything for him, including bringing him other girls
Aside from messages from Epstein’s famous friends, including Donald Trump and the magician David Copperfield, there were many from girls.
The need for a constant flow of girls was clear from these messages: at least three girls a day were scheduled to go to Epstein’s house, sometimes with little time between appointments. Most of the confiscated messages were taken by the butler, who, in 2005, was a man named Alfredo Rodriguez.
But someone called Ghislaine Maxwell also took messages and it soon became clear to Mr Edwards that she was a key figure in Epstein’s life.
Juan Alessi, Epstein’s former housekeeper at Palm Beach, told the lawyer how Maxwell arrived at the property after Epstein split from his girlfriend Eva in 1991.
Maxwell, he said, was deeply controlling and introduced a handbook for staff, explaining they would now be following the rules of a Royal household, including a requirement never to look the master, Jeffrey Epstein, in the eye. Juan said that when Eva had been in charge, there had been no other women around the house.
This changed as soon as Maxwell took over. Female visitors arrived who were referred to as ‘masseuses,’ but who did not look professional and appeared too young. After the novice ‘masseuses’ performed massages, Juan would go upstairs to clean up the massage room and find used sex toys.
Maxwell, he claimed, loved to take nude photographs of girls, which she stored in an album on her desk.
As soon as Maxwell took over, there were young girls around
As Mr Edwards’s investigations continued, he discovered that Maxwell’s alleged involvement in Epstein’s crimes was not simply confined to Florida: she was allegedly helping him groom young girls across the US. The lawyer’s most coveted witness was a talented performer whom he called Kat. She was important because she was the earliest child victim Mr Edwards knew about. She was also allegedly groomed by Epstein and Maxwell before the pair started what became their alleged modus operandi of using ‘massages’ as a pretext for sex acts.
Kat not only confirmed Epstein’s predatory sexual behaviour, but also provided an insight, she claims, into Maxwell’s intricate role.
She explained that Epstein and Maxwell had recruited her in 1994 when she was only 13, while she was sitting alone on a bench outside her summer camp in Michigan – the same camp Epstein had attended 27 summers earlier. He gave money to the camp from 1990 to 2003 and occasionally visited the area.
Kat was an enormously talented singer, and Epstein promised to make her a star. He and Maxwell made Kat feel indebted to them by paying for her singing lessons, her private school education and the New York City apartment where she and her mother lived.
As part of their alleged grooming process, Kat claims Maxwell and Epstein would talk about sex with her frequently. Epstein, she said, referred to himself as her ‘godfather’ and went out of his way to impress her with his money and his connections. By the time Kat was 14, Epstein was regularly molesting her and Maxwell was continuing to remind her of all the things Epstein was doing for her career. When she was 17, Epstein raped her, taking her virginity.
Bradley Edwards, an American lawyer, made it his life’s mission to bring Epstein to justice. As he was preparing to represent Epstein’s victims, he discovered that Maxwell was seemingly complicit in her paedophile ex-lover’s appalling crimes. Above, Edwards’ book ‘Relentless Pursuit, My fight for the victims of Jeffrey Epstein’
Epstein’s hold over Kat lasted for a long period: she still occasionally spent time with him and Maxwell in her 20s, despite the years of abuse she had suffered.
After learning how expansive Epstein’s sex-trafficking operation had become, Mr Edwards hired a team of investigators to find individuals who he had identified as victims and who were now more mature and likely to co-operate. They had a long list of women who fitted the description, but many were unwilling to reopen the wounds of the past. With persistence, however, some did talk and, over time, some of those who originally refused to speak began to call.
While working in the office one weekend, Mr Edwards’ team received a call from a woman who they would give the pseudonym Fantasia. Fantasia, who was nearly 40, described how in 1994, aged 17, she had been recruited by Maxwell to provide Epstein with a massage in Europe. She had then been flown to Little St James, Epstein’s private Caribbean island, and to his other plush homes and introduced to other powerful figures.
Having spent time with them sporadically for more than a decade, Fantasia claims she had tremendous insight into the role Maxwell played in Epstein’s life. This included telling Fantasia which sex outfit to wear to make him happy – the schoolgirl one was his favourite. Once, while in London, it is alleged Fantasia and Maxwell encountered a very young-looking girl who Fantasia thought was innocent and should be left alone.
She says she remembered Maxwell disagreeing and telling her that someone had to perform a sex act on Epstein and, if this new girl didn’t do it, then Maxwell herself would have to – and clearly she did not want to. Fantasia told how Epstein was so overwhelmed by sexual desire when underage girls were around he would physically shake. He couldn’t survive without a constant supply of new girls.
She even said that she had known Epstein for so long, and had seen enough of his ‘evil’ side, that she believed he wasn’t beyond killing someone, especially if it was necessary to keep his sex addiction alive.
In 2017, a lawsuit against Maxwell was on the verge of going to trial and Fantasia was strongly considering testifying. But on the eve of the hearing, she received a mysterious call in the middle of the night. The voice on the other end said: ‘If you care about your daughter, you will stay out of the litigation in New York.’ That was enough to make up her mind. She was out.
FIXER: Maxwell was said to be ‘powerfully persuasive’ and called herself the ‘mother hen’ of Jeffrey Epstein’s girls. Juan Alessi, Epstein’s former housekeeper at Palm Beach, claims that Maxwell (pictured above) loved to take nude photographs of girls, which she stored in an album on her desk
Knowing that Epstein was actively pursuing children for sex in the 1990s – when Maxwell was widely known to be with him every day – Mr Edwards looked back through his files in a bid to identify more witnesses who were around the pair during that period.
A woman named Maria Farmer had a star by her name in his notes. She had been allegedly groped by both Epstein and Maxwell in 1996 and had been the first victim to come forward and report the duo.
Mr Edwards eventually tracked her down to Paducah, Kentucky, in 2016. A talented artist, Maria was willing to tell Mr Edwards everything she knew, including numerous accounts of Maxwell’s alleged role in recruiting girls for Epstein.
She described how Epstein had an unquenchable appetite for young girls, and claims Maxwell had a knack for finding them. Maria said she was riding in Maxwell’s chauffeured limousine when the former socialite would spot a girl, stop the car, get out and lure her to Epstein. She also told how Maxwell would approach a girl minding her own business on a bench in Central Park and within minutes convince her to divulge her phone number.
Maria worked on the ground floor of Epstein’s New York mansion, checking contractors and visitors in and out of the property. There was more than one occasion when a young girl would show up in her school uniform and go upstairs, only to return sometime later in tears.
When Maria queried Maxwell about such incidents, it is claimed she was typically told that Epstein was working as a model scout for Les Wexner, owner of US lingerie retailer Victoria’s Secret, and had probably just told the girl she was not good enough to be hired.
Maria explained how Epstein had been intrigued when he discovered that she had a younger sister, Annie, then in her early teens, and insisted on seeing pictures of her. Annie wanted to go to an Ivy League university one day and Epstein offered to pay for her to enter any course she wanted, worldwide.
There was a disturbing bond between them, like Bonnie and Clyde
After Annie picked a summer programme in Thailand, her mother received a call from Maxwell, who told her that all students being sponsored by Epstein were invited to his ranch in New Mexico to discuss their future courses.
But when Annie, by then 16, arrived at the 7,500-acre compound, she was surprised to find she was the only student there. Maxwell later allegedly massaged Annie, after asking her to strip naked.
At one point, she allegedly pulled the covers off the teenager, exposing her breasts, before starting to massage them. When the massage was over, Annie stood up and realised Epstein had been watching them the entire time. Annie went to sleep in her own bed and woke to find the financier cuddling her under the covers.
Maria vividly described Epstein and Maxwell as Bonnie and Clyde – a description that was also used by several other witnesses.
Maxwell, according to Maria, was the main person bringing Epstein girls. Her speciality, she said, was making them feel comfortable before handing them over to him.
Maria’s relationship with Maxwell and Epstein took a major turn in the summer of 1996 after she stayed with them at Wexner’s vast home in Ohio. She claims Maxwell called Maria to her and Epstein’s bedroom and asked her to get on to the bed with them.
She described how first Maxwell and then Epstein grabbed her breasts. Horrified, she called her father, who drove from Kentucky to pick her up.
Witness after witness claimed to have seen this deeply disturbing bond between Epstein and Maxwell, and the way unsuspecting girls were sucked into their ‘family’ before being spat out and replaced with new girls. One young woman recalled how Maxwell referred to herself as the ‘mother hen’ of Epstein’s girls.
A woman named Maria Farmer had been allegedly groped by both Epstein and Maxwell in 1996 and had been the first victim to come forward and report the duo. Maria vividly described Epstein and Maxwell (left and right respectively) as Bonnie and Clyde – a description that was also used by several other witnesses
By 2015, Epstein and Maxwell had drifted apart. Epstein had replaced her as his main girlfriend several times over because she was too old for him.
He was by now a convicted paedophile, having pleaded guilty to relatively minor charges in 2008 after the US government agreed a plea deal.
Maxwell, meanwhile, was facing mounting allegations. The British socialite, once a ubiquitous presence in the pages of high society magazines, had become a ghost, keeping an almost invisible profile as more victims came forward.
In 2017, her lawyers told a judge they had no idea where she was.
Last week, almost a year after Epstein was found dead in his New York jail cell, that dramatically changed as squads from six police forces raided Maxwell’s 156-acre, million-dollar hideout.
Wearing jogging bottoms and a T-shirt, she was awake and in her living room when officers stormed in. While hiding out at the New England property, she is even said to have occupied herself by reading Mr Edwards’ book on Epstein.
For the lawyer and the victims he represents, the raid was the culmination of a 12-year quest.
Maxwell, awaiting transfer to New York to be formally arraigned on child sex trafficking charges, finally faces a reckoning with the allegations surrounding her past.
Pictured: The two-bedroom house in an exclusive area of London where Ghislaine Maxwell allegedly groomed an underage girl before allowing Jeffrey Epstein to abuse her
ByAbul Taher for The Mail on Sunday
The two-bedroom mews house pictured in an exclusive area of London is where Ghislaine Maxwell is alleged to have groomed an underage girl before allowing her paedophile friend Jeffrey Epstein to abuse her.
The Mail on Sunday understands that the socialite owned the property in the mid-1990s when US prosecutors say the girl was abused at Maxwell’s ‘personal London residence’.
The indictment, released last week, says: ‘Maxwell groomed and befriended Minor Victim 3 in London, England, between approximately 1994 and 1995.
The Mail on Sunday understands that the socialite owned the property (pictured) in the mid-1990s when US prosecutors say the girl was abused at Maxwell’s ‘personal London residence’
‘Maxwell introduced Minor Victim 3 to Epstein and during those interactions, Maxwell encouraged Minor Victim 3 to massage Epstein, knowing that Epstein would engage in sex acts with Minor Victim 3. During those massages, Epstein sexually abused Minor Victim 3.’
Maxwell, who has denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of Epstein’s serial offending, is believed to have been living in Stanhope Mews East in South Kensington at the time.
Neighbours last night recalled her living at the property. It is thought to have been bought for her by her father, newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell, two years before his death in November 1991.
Robert Greenwood, 90, who has lived in the mews for decades, said: ‘I remember when Robert Maxwell bought the property. He came up to me and asked if it was worth buying on this street. He told me he was buying it for his daughter, who was at university at the time.’
Mr Greenwood and his wife Kiki remember seeing Maxwell on the street until the mid-1990s, when she left the area. She reportedly moved to a house in Kinnerton Street, Belgravia, in 1997.
Maxwell (pictured with Epstein), who has denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of Epstein’s serial offending, is believed to have been living in Stanhope Mews East in South Kensington at the time
Maxwell is believed to have sold the three-storey property in South Kensington for £267,000. It was resold last August for £1.7 million.
Photographs of the interior, posted by estate agents last year, show a large living room and two big bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, though it may have been renovated since Maxwell was there.
The current owner said he was unaware that Maxwell once lived there. Asked about his property’s potential link to Epstein’s crimes, he said: ‘I just do not want to think about that.’
The now infamous photograph of Prince Andrew with his arm around Virginia Giuffre Roberts, aged 17 at the time, was taken at Maxwell’s Kinnerton Street house in 2001.
She is understood to still own the property.