The night Ghislaine Maxwell tried to give me a very public sex lesson: PETRONELLA WYATT’S extraordinary account of her encounter with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s ‘pimp’
- Petronella Wyatt shares her encounters with Ghislaine Maxwell and her father
- She once met Ghislaine at a Manhattan party, after her involvement with Epstein
- She says the Oxford graduate wanted to teach her how to perform oral sex
- Petronella believes the death of Ghislaine’s father pushed her towards Epstein
She looked at me as if I was a moron. Certainly, she didn’t think I was playing with a full deck. Amid the tables laden with sweating champagne buckets in one of Manhattan’s swankiest restaurants, her grip tightened on my wrist.
‘I am trying to teach you how to please your boyfriend. Don’t you want to know how?’
I was unnerved. ‘I don’t have a boyfriend,’ I said apologetically. She then mentioned something about corkscrews and the entourage of younger women around her laughed and giggled.
The woman seemed vaguely familiar. Her hair was black and sleek, her face flushed and, I remember thinking, rather tortured. Suddenly, I recognised her.
Petronella Wyatt recalls her encounters with Ghislaine Maxwell (pictured with Jeffrey Epstein) and her father, Robert
It had been a long time since I had seen Ghislaine Maxwell — now the focus of allegations (which she denies) that she acted as a ‘madame’ for the late paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein. But as she took my hand, I sensed her personality was of the kind that brooked no refusal.
In that, she was like her father, Robert, the late, disgraced newspaper tycoon.
I had met Mr Maxwell before I ever met Ghislaine. It was in the Eighties when my own father, the politician and writer Woodrow Wyatt, invited him to dinner.
Maxwell was then the owner of Mirror Group Newspapers and rarely out of the headlines. My mother, who is Hungarian, had wanted to meet him because he had been born in a part of Czechoslovakia that had once belonged to Hungary.
I think his wife, Betty, came with him but I have no recollection of her. I’d heard gossip that her husband treated her badly, had affairs, even knocked her about a bit.
I do remember him, though. A very large man, he had cobalt eyes, florid skin and features that might have been handsome had they not looked as if God had, at the last minute, given up. He wore velvet shoes and a dinner jacket with a loud bow tie.
Someone had told me he’d once killed a man, yet that evening he attempted the air of a born boulevardier. At once, he bent over to kiss my hand. It was a cold night but he was sweating hard.
He placed his lips on my knuckles and sucked as if he was drawing venom from a snakebite, then turned to my mother and said: ‘What a beautiful daughter you have.’ I was 16 at the time. ‘I have a beautiful daughter, too,’ he added. ‘She is just like me.’
Petronella (pictured) admits she was mesmerised and intimidated the first time she met Oxford graduate Ghislaine, at an Italian restaurant
For anyone who moved in what passed for London ‘society’, it was impossible not to be aware of Ghislaine Maxwell. She appeared regularly in newspaper gossip columns, at fashionable eateries such as San Lorenzo in Knightsbridge, and at Tramp and Annabel’s nightclubs.
She was invited to all the smartest parties. She is seven years older than me and when we were first introduced I was at once mesmerised and intimidated. She was an Oxford graduate who had founded the Kit Kat Club, an exclusive salon for the more intellectual sort of It Girl (if that isn’t a contradiction in terms).
Our first meeting was in an Italian restaurant and she was, of course, sitting at the best table. I was in an alcove. Someone on her table knew me and beckoned me over. We were introduced.
Ghislaine was tall and thin, with broad shoulders and layered hair so black and glossy it was like ravens’ wings. Her complexion was pale and her mouth well-shaped but thin. She wasn’t beautiful, but she had the gift of making you believe she was.
She also had an intense sexuality, an almost androgynous allure.
‘This is Petronella Wyatt,’ she was told. She laughed brightly and said in flattering tones: ‘I’ve heard about you.’
She had the ability to both please and hypnotise.
I ran into her quite often after that. She spoke frequently of her father, reverentially, as though he had the combined qualities of Socrates, El Cid, Cary Grant and all Twelve Apostles. This was at a time when his star was starting to wane in the City and elsewhere.
Petronella believes the death of Ghislaine’s (pictured) father could have sent her towards late paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein
I wondered then whether her almost pathological desire to please men — something I often observed at parties — stemmed from her hero-worship of him.
Some years later I met Robert Maxwell again, at a wedding. During the dancing afterwards, I dropped my handbag. As I bent to retrieve it, he almost flung my arm aside so he could perform this act of chivalry himself.
With a ghastly playfulness, he held the handbag above his head and waggled a podgy finger.
‘Doesn’t this deserve a dance?’
I couldn’t very well refuse.
His hooded eyes were bloodshot as he pushed me around the dance floor. His touch was clammy and his breath stank. I didn’t flatter myself that he was interested in me sexually.
He seemed preoccupied, despite the swagger. A few months later I understood why.
I think it was her father’s death that changed Ghislaine Maxwell’s life and perhaps sent her on her headlong rush towards a man such as Jeffrey Epstein. I read about it in November 1991. His body had been found in the Canary Islands, floating near the yacht he had named after his favourite child, the Lady Ghislaine.
By that time, everyone knew he had stolen hundreds of millions of pounds from the Mirror Group pension fund. Most of us assumed his death was an accident — his heart was bad — or that he had committed suicide.
Petronella (pictured) recalls there being many Maxwell stories in the papers, following his death in the Canary Islands
A friend who knew Ghislaine called me one morning. ‘She is quite mad with grief,’ she said. ‘She thinks he was murdered. Her friends are very worried about her state of mind.’
In the extremities of grief, we invent so many palliatives to the truth. I don’t believe Ghislaine could accept that the person she worshipped was a common thief who had died a sad but unglamorous death, his reputation gone along with most of his money.
Maxwell’s sons Ian and Kevin, then aged 35 and 32 respectively, were later prosecuted as accessories to fraud (both were cleared). Nearly every day there was a Maxwell story in the papers, including dawn raids on their homes.
One Sunday, a girlfriend of mine invited me to a lunch party at her London flat. I was nursing a Bloody Mary when the Maxwell boys walked in.
I have to say I liked them, especially Ian. He was good looking in an unobtrusive way, with a wry, twisted smile. He seemed a gentleman. I thought him a weak vessel, though, whom his father had smashed.
Kevin was angrier. He looked more like Ghislaine and had a scrappy, combative manner.
It was clear to me that the sons had suffered, but it must have been hell for Ghislaine, the youngest of Maxwell’s seven surviving children and the most devoted to him. He was no longer there to protect her from the barbs of London life.
Petronella recounts seeing Ghislaine (pictured left with her father, Robert) five years after the death of her father during a visit to New York
She disappeared from the parties, restaurants, private dinners, nightclubs and openings in London, and I didn’t give her much thought until five years later, on a visit to New York, when I heard she had moved there and was cutting quite a swathe.
‘No one in New York gives a damn about raiding pensions,’ one Upper East Side matron told me.
Ghislaine’s close friends had stuck by her and she had been introduced to an impressive array of Americans including the Clintons, members of the Kennedy family and Donald Trump.
Then she had become enamoured of a financier called Jeffrey Epstein, who, it was said, reminded her of her father. People said he had ‘saved’ her and ‘made her feel safe’.
He also funded her lavish lifestyle of private jets, expensive real estate and designer clothes. I heard, too, that she hadn’t lost her Geisha-like compulsion to flatter men.
Epstein had, even in those days, an unpleasant reputation. I met him just once in the bar of a New York hotel, where he was having a meeting with an acquaintance of mine. I said hello and moved away, not wishing to interrupt.
He looked annoyed; it was said he was often angry and had a basic contempt for women.
I think now how ironic it was that the only good thing Robert Maxwell ever did for his daughter was scare off unsuitable boyfriends, yet he wasn’t there to protect her from the man who became her nemesis.
Petronella (pictured) says Ghislaine tried to show her how to perform oral sex, while at a party in Manhattan
Then, some years later, there was that bizarre encounter with Ghislaine at the Manhattan party. She was on her own and no longer romantically involved with Epstein, who was about to be charged as a sex offender.
Her hair was cut into a boyish crop, her teeth had been whitened and I suspected she’d had something done to her lips. Her once pale skin was the teak permatan of the aimless rich.
She had lost her charm and seemed, like her father all those years ago, to be playing a role. Above all, she appeared to be playing at being happy.
After that moment of mutual recognition, she laughed a little too loudly. I asked her how she was and she didn’t answer.
Her manner was brittle, almost uncontrolled. But it was clear that with many of the younger female guests, she held her old sway, and they gathered around her, eager to hear what Ghislaine was saying.
‘Give me your arm,’ she persisted, looking straight at me. ‘I will show you how to give a man the world’s greatest oral sex.’
Being something of a prig, I placed both hands in the pockets of my jacket and shook my head.
Fortunately, someone more eager than I rolled up the sleeve of her dress and two more young, giggling women followed her example.
As I moved away, Ghislaine Maxwell finally got to perform her party trick — a lesson in the art of pleasing men. I never saw her again.
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