Ghislaine, Prince Andrew and the pedophile is, inevitably, depressing viewing. No matter how many times you see that picture of Andrew smiling with his arm around Virginia Giuffre – like he won her in a coin toss, Ghislaine Maxwell smiling indulgently – or watch the Prince take a walk with Jeffrey Epstein in Central Park, or listen to the witnesses’ grim testimony, they never lose their power to undermine faith in humanity. Familiarity with such things certainly breeds contempt, as far as Maxwell, the Prince and Epstein are concerned.
That’s how it should be, and Ranvir Singh’s documentary about the Maxwell trial comes as Epstein’s co-conspirator – a more apt term than ‘ma’am’ – awaits sentencing for the serious sex trafficking offenses for which she has now been sentenced. Singh is a warm, friendly presenter, and she brings an added edge to the story, revealing that she, too, was sexually abused as a young girl.
It sensitively tells the story of Maxwell and Epstein’s abuse, and Andrew’s relationship with the couple, and includes new interviews with Epstein’s friends, survivors and staff. You are particularly struck when victims, including Giuffre – and independently of each other – testify that their sense of betrayal at Maxwell was somehow worse than the damage done by Epstein.
Sarah Ransome, a survivor, explains it very eloquently: “Because she was a woman, she normalized the abuse, she perpetrated, she tortured me and others and she is worse than Jeffrey , she broke the brotherhood, broke the bond, she was meant to be protective and nurturing. She let us down. You can see very clearly here why the New York jury found that Maxwell herself was far from a co-victim of Epstein: he clearly couldn’t have done it without her.
There are some small but revealing new revelations, mostly from palace staff. Singh found Andrew’s phone number in Epstein’s famous little black book and cheekily called him – it still works. Andrew’s voicemail was stranger than you might expect, with just a tiny hint of that convoluted self-esteem we saw in his weird Newsnight interview: “I’m afraid I wasn’t quick enough to reach the phone before he took your message. If you have a message, leave it and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
We also learn from a protection officer that Maxwell had a virtually free pass in and out of Buckingham Palace, suggesting she was once very close to the prince, perhaps closer than expected. Nor do I think we previously knew that the Duke of York keeps a laminated photo of his collection of stuffed animals so that Buckingham Palace staff can arrange them in the correct order on his bed after they finish tidying up his rooms. – and if they don’t put the bears back correctly, he throws a wobbly. Neurosis or childishness? I must add, of course, that Andrew denies all the allegations made against him and, as far as can be seen, has not changed his line that he has no memory of Giuffre.
As always, however, there are many, many more unanswered questions. 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?
Partly because of the much maligned mainstream media and an independent judiciary, we will find out bit by bit and justice will be served.