Ghislaine Maxwell and I crossed paths soon after I moved to New York in 1997.
Though she was a few years older than me, we were both English, Oxbridge-educated and would sometimes be invited to the same parties. She was pin-thin, expensively dressed, funny, fun, clever, worldly and the effortless centre of attention.
She talked about sex a lot — and she liked to behave outrageously. During one Manhattan dinner I heard about, she told a British movie star to lie face-down on the floor; she jumped on his back and gave him a massage right there on the ground in front of everyone. Even as people laughed, one observer wondered if what she was doing was not inappropriate.
Usually, she was by herself. I had no idea whether or not she had a boyfriend.
But then, in the autumn of 2002, I was assigned to write an article for Vanity Fair magazine about an intriguing and very rich man called Jeffrey Epstein. I soon discovered that Ghislaine had had a complicated relationship with Epstein for over a decade. They didn’t live together, I was told. Some sources claimed she worked for him — although Epstein later denied this. He insisted they were not romantically involved, instead telling me she was his best friend.
What struck me as strange was that at the start of my reporting I’d bumped into Ghislaine at a friend’s baby shower: and when I mentioned I was writing the article, she started to cry.
At the time I put it down to how unequal their relationship seemed. I’d heard she loved him and he did not love her back.
She wanted to marry him and have children, sources told me — though she had insisted otherwise. Meanwhile, he wanted to stay single and sleep with (many) other women, which he certainly did.