The mainstream media’s pronunciation of my sister’s name has been about as accurate as their coverage of her. No, it’s not ‘Jizlaine’, it’s ‘Giilen’. Firmly a French name, it was my mother, Betty’s riposte to my father’s choice of the name Kevin for my younger brother.
My mother is all too often written out of the Maxwell story but in fact she was the major influence on all our lives. That’s partly because of her loving nature but also because my father was so seldom present in our childhood. He was an incessant traveller and his many interests kept him away.
Betty was determined to maintain our French identities. We all have dual British and French nationality and that’s why, if Ghislaine had had any thought she might be arrested, she could have left after Epstein died and gone to France from where there is no extradition to America.
Whilst my mother gave us all the security and love that has welded us together as a family, my father provided the discipline. He was a hugely courageous soldier in the British army and fought the most gruelling battles of the war from the Normandy beaches to Berlin for which he was conferred the Military Cross.
Bob was a survivor. He was also a man of profound inner sorrow having lost his parents and most of his family in Auschwitz, the pain of which he carried with him all his life. He survived by developing a thick carapace combined with relentless self-promotion but underneath he was forever grieving.
In our different ways we have all inherited Bob’s survivor gene. The vile conditions in the Metropolitan Detention Centre are well documented: the rats, the poor sanitation, being woken every 15 minutes with a torch shone in her eyes. But as awful as it is, it’s not Auschwitz. Ghislaine knows that.
She has now survived over 500 days of effective solitary isolation in that evil place. But she’s weakened, drained and hollowed out. Two of my siblings who have supported her in court have told me they no longer recognise the pin sharp, smart sister we all once knew
Bad food, lack of hygiene and poor ventilation are common for many prisoners. Add in the isolation and unjustified suicide watch regime, the estimated 3,500 pat downs and intrusive strip searches she has been forced to endure (some of which she has reported), the obstacles she still faces in reviewing legal papers, plus the multiple irrational denials of bail, Ghislaine is suffering an abominable abuse of her human rights.
In condemnation of this unrelenting treatment, our family has lodged a complaint with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
Our father’s death apart, Ghislaine was born to tragedy. Forty-eight hours after her birth on Christmas Day 1961 our oldest brother Michael, then aged 15, was all but killed when the car he was a passenger in collided with a lorry in thick fog. He was in a coma for seven years and died in 1968.
As a result Ghislaine, who should have been the centre of my parent’s attention as their newest child, was hardly given a glance so profound was their grief. One day when she was about three, she planted herself in front of our mother and said simply ‘Mummy, I exist’. Betty swept her up in her arms and hugged her, never letting her feel abandoned again.
Much has been made of our father’s influence on Ghislaine but our mother’s was much more significant. In the Address given by Oxford’s former vice chancellor Sir Colin Lucas at her memorial service in 2013, he talked about: ‘Her code of personal conduct, loyalty, conscience, duty… above all, in addition to courage she had great energy, tenacity, determination, promptness and shrewd intelligence’. These are attributes Ghislaine has developed in her own life. They have stood her in good stead and will continue to do so I’m sure.
Now, for the past 18 months the Epstein scandal has dominated the media. Fuelled by their shame and fury at losing Epstein in federal custody the authorities instead targeted my sister. They then staged a dramatic arrest and trial that effectively pronounced her guilty to millions of Americans before any evidence was called.
We all have intense sympathy for those who are victims of abuse — yet throughout the trial, Ghislaine has been loudly maligned. These detractors include those who have not been called as witnesses and whose claims have not been tested in court under oath.
During the trial, certain media accounts have suggested that the prosecution has fumbled its case. But this is to perpetuate the trope of Ghislaine’s guilt in the court of public opinion. This narrative does not admit the possibility that the government has simply not had the evidence.
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