Prince Andrew was dragged into the Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking trial yesterday as one of several high-profile names who flew on the private jets of paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Epstein’s chief pilot told how he flew a string of VIPs including the Duke of York, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, along with disgraced actor Kevin Spacey, on the financier’s luxury fleet.
After it was thought Maxwell may try to protect her friends in high places, it was her own lawyer who introduced the topic of Andrew.
In the court in New York, Christian Everdell asked pilot Larry Visoski: ‘Are you aware of Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, he is the son of Queen Elizabeth II of England?’
The pilot said: ‘Yes.’
Mr Everdell said: ‘Did he fly on Epstein’s planes?’
Again Mr Visoski said yes, but could not recall when.
During his testimony Mr Visoski described Maxwell as Epstein’s ‘number two’ when asked by prosecutor Maurene Comey what place she occupied in the paedophile’s ‘hierarchy’. Epstein, he said, was ‘definitely number one’.
The pilot, the trial’s first witness, said he was used to flying high-profile passengers but that he never encountered sexual activity aboard three jets he piloted for Epstein during roughly 1,000 trips between 1991 and 2019.
Prince Andrew (pictured yesterday enjoying an early morning ride at Windsor) was dragged into the Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking trial yesterday as one of several high-profile names who flew on the private jets of paedophile Jeffrey Epstein
Epstein’s chief pilot told how he flew a string of VIPs including Donald Trump (pictured together in 2000) on Epstein’s planes
Mr Trump flew ‘a number of times’, he said. The pilot recalled how he would have to make the aircraft ‘look nice’ for Mr Clinton.
Mr Visoski said he stayed in the cockpit for the majority of flights, but would sometimes emerge to go to the bathroom or get coffee.
Although he was called as a witness by the US government, the pilot’s testimony seemed to aid the defence of Maxwell as he answered questions from Mr Everdell about what he saw when he checked the planes over after a flight.
Mr Visoski didn’t hesitate when Mr Everdell asked him if he ever saw sexual activity aboard Epstein’s Gulfstream G2B or Boeing 727 jets or found sex toys when he cleaned the planes up.
‘Never,’ the pilot answered to both questions. He said he never saw used condoms either. And when he was asked if he ever saw sex acts with under-age females, he answered: ‘Absolutely not.’
The pilot said Epstein never warned him to stay in the cockpit during flights and also encouraged him to use a bathroom near the rear of the plane that would require him to walk past the aircraft’s couches. He said he never saw any children on his planes who were not accompanied by their parents.
On the second day in New York, Pilot Larry Visoski said during the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell how he could recall having to make Epstein’s planes ‘look nice’ for US President Clinton (pictured with Epstein and Maxwell at the White House in 1993)
The scene was a world away from the packed court room which greeted his friend Maxwell last night as she faced allegations of recruiting minors for Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse from 1994 to 2004
The Boeing has been dubbed the ‘Lolita Express’ amid claims Epstein flew under-age girls around the world to sexually abuse them, including at his ranch in New Mexico and private island in the Caribbean.
Maxwell, 59, is accused of grooming young girls and sex trafficking them to be ‘served up’ to be assaulted by her powerful boyfriend Epstein.
Her trial will feature four women who allege she facilitated Epstein’s sexual abuse of them. She denies all of the charges.
Yesterday the chief pilot said that while he remembered the famous names, he had no recollection of three of the accusers, known in court as Annie, Kate and Carolyn.
The other woman, known as Jane, was allegedly just 14 when Maxwell trapped her in a nightmare of abuse that lasted years.
Mr Visoski said he remembered meeting Jane in the mid to late 1990s but did not know how old she was. He told jurors: ‘Mr Epstein brought her to the cockpit and introduced her to me.’
The Duke of York, 61, appeared to be in high spirits and was joined by three others on his ride through Windsor, the scene a world away from the packed court room which greeted his friend Ghislaine Maxwell (sketched in court on Monday) last night as she faced allegations of recruiting minors for Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse from 1994 to 2004
Andrew, who was also seen driving his Range Rover this morning, has been accused by Epstein sex slave Virginia Giuffre of raping her, allegations which he denies
He said she had ‘piercing powder-blue eyes’, but added: ‘She looked like a mature woman.’ Mr Everdell asked him: ‘You remember she had large breasts?’ The pilot replied: ‘She was a mature woman… like she was in her twenties.’
The court was shown photos of the luxury airliners Epstein owned, along with his array of homes. Mr Visoski said Epstein gave him 40 acres of his New Mexico estate to build a house on and paid for his daughters’ college education.
The shocking claim that Prince Andrew was onboard the paedophile Epstein’s private jet comes as the Duke of York was pictured grinning while riding his horse through Windsor on Tuesday morning – just hours after Maxwell’s trial began in New York.
The Duke of York, 61, appeared to be in high spirits and was joined by three others on his ride through Windsor, the scene a world away from the packed court room which greeted his friend Maxwell last night as she faced allegations of recruiting minors for Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse from 1994 to 2004.
Andrew, who was also seen driving his Range Rover this morning, has been accused by Epstein ‘sex slave’ Virginia Giuffre of raping her, allegations which he denies.
Giuffre, who has filed a related civil lawsuit against Andrew but is not part of the criminal case against Maxwell, has previously described Epstein’s former ‘madam’ as a ‘Mary Poppins’ figure who made young girls feel comfortable as they were being lured into the paedophile’s web. Maxwell is known to have introduced the prince to Epstein.
Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell attend an event in New York in 2005
This is Jeffrey Epstein’s infamous ‘Lolita Express’ – a private Boeing 727 airliner that carried prominent passengers and allegedly underage girls
Ms Giuffre has sued the duke in New York, alleging he had sex with her more than 20 years ago when she was a minor under US law. That civil lawsuit is expected to be heard before a jury in late 2022. Andrew has not been criminally charged and has ‘unequivocally’ denied the allegations.
Photos of Andrew riding today come after a court was told that Maxwell was a ‘dangerous predator’ who ‘served up’ girls for sexual abuse. The British socialite was billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein‘s ‘second in command’ and lured vulnerable teenagers for him to assault, a jury in New York heard.
The courtroom was packed as Maxwell’s trial on sex trafficking charges got under way, with observers queuing in the freezing cold from 5am to guarantee a seat. They were silent throughout as lurid claims against Epstein’s alleged madam were aired.
During the trial, Maxwell listened intently, occasionally scribbling in a notebook and turning to look at her sister, as Assistant US Attorney Lara Pomerantz accused her of ‘heinous crimes’.
The prosecutor warned the jury that some of the evidence they will hear over the course of the six-week trial may make them uncomfortable.
But, after hearing it, she added, they would ‘reach the only verdict possible – that Ghislaine Maxwell is guilty’. Miss Pomerantz accused Maxwell of being one half of a powerful couple with Epstein, devising a sick ‘pyramid scheme of abuse’ in which they bribed schoolgirls to recruit their friends.
The 59-year-old former girlfriend of Wall Street financier Epstein was his ‘partner in crime’, the jury was told – putting young girls at ease so they could be ‘molested by a middle-aged man’.
The jury of seven women and five men, plus several substitutes, heard how the daughter of the late media tycoon Robert Maxwell went after young girls with ‘difficult home lives’, often daughters of single mothers, and would ‘promise them the world’.
‘They lured their victims with a promise of a brighter future then destroyed their lives,’ the prosecutor said in a blistering 25-minute opening statement in the grand Thurgood Marshall Courthouse.
Miss Pomerantz said: ‘They were wealthy, powerful and well connected. They often targeted the daughters of single mothers, struggling to make ends meet.
‘They made young girls believe that their dreams could become true. They made them feel seen. They made them feel special.’
But instead the girls were recruited into a ‘nightmare’ of abuse. ‘Between 1994 and 2004 the defendant preyed on vulnerable young girls, manipulated them and served them up for sexual abuse.
Maxwell denies sex trafficking and other charges and has been awaiting trial for over a year in ‘hell-hole’ Brooklyn prison
Ghislaine Maxwell (pictured here in 2013) listened intently as the prosecution opened its case, occasionally scribbling in a notebook and turning to look at her sister, while Assistant US Attorney Lara Pomerantz accused her of ‘heinous crimes’
Maxwell, 59, who is accused of procuring underage girls for paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, is on trial for sex trafficking charges
In a courtroom sketch, Judge Alison Nathan instructs the sworn-in jury at the start of Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial
‘She was trafficking them for sex. That’s what this trial is about,’ Miss Pomerantz said.
Maxwell has been described as gaunt and degraded by 17 months in a New York detention centre awaiting her trial.
But yesterday, wearing a cashmere turtleneck, black trousers and black low-heeled shoes, she looked relaxed, confident and healthy as she conferred with her high-powered legal team and smiled behind her white mask.
Miss Pomerantz began her presentation with the line: ‘I want to tell you about a young girl named Jane,’ adding that ‘Jane’ – a pseudonym for a victim – was just 14 when she was introduced to a man and a woman at a summer arts camp. They said they sponsored youngsters of talent.
‘What Jane didn’t know then is that man and woman were predators. Who was that woman targeting young girls for sexual abuse? It was the defendant: Ghislaine Maxwell,’ she said, pointing.
‘She was Epstein’s second in command. During ten years, the defendant was the lady of the house. She imposed rules. Employees were to hear nothing, see nothing, say nothing. There was a culture of silence. That was by design – the defendant’s design.
‘Behind closed doors, the defendant and Epstein were committing heinous crimes, sexually abusing teenage girls. They were partners in crime.’
Following the opening statements, Epstein’s pilot said on the witness stand that Prince Andrew was a passenger on the Lolita Express, adding that Donald Trump also flew on the private plane.
Visoski said: ‘I certainly remember President Trump, but not many people associated with him,’ adding that Trump’s flights were before he was president.
Visoski also said he was introduced to Minor Victim 1 – known by the pseudonym ‘Jane’ – in the cockpit of the ‘Lolita Express’ in the mid to late 90s.
‘Mr. Epstein brought her to the cockpit. She had piercing power blue eyes,’ Visoski said.
When asked if he remembers Virginia Roberts, Visoski replied, ‘Yes. A shorter woman with dirty blonde hair.’
‘She didn’t look young. I mean, whatever you decipher is the definition of young. But she was a woman in my category,’ he added.
Asked what he had made of Epstein’s relationship to Ghislaine Maxwell, he said it was ‘more personal than business’, but added: ‘I wouldn’t characterize it as romantic.’
Visoski said he had been hired in 1991 and had flown Epstein around roughly ‘every four days’. The pilot was so close to his boss that his daughter was reportedly married at Epstein’s New Mexico ranch.
The pilot captained Epstein’s Boeing 727 jet – known infamously as the ‘Lolita Express’ – just one of several private aircraft which prosecutors believe was used to shuttle underage girls between Epstein’s residences in New York and Palm Beach.
The trial was watched by several women who were victims of Epstein. Maxwell – said to have been Epstein’s lover and then, when they broke up, his ‘best friend’ – is accused of acting as the financier’s chief enabler, recruiting and grooming young girls for him to abuse.
She denies all six charges, but faces up to 80 years behind bars if found guilty. He killed himself in 2019 in a Manhattan jail cell before he could be tried.
Going into disturbing details, Miss Pomerantz said Epstein ‘directed girls to massage him while he masturbated’ and would receive ‘oral sex and sometimes penetrate the girls’.
The prosecutor said of Maxwell: ‘She knew exactly what Epstein was going to do to these children when she sent them to this massage room.
‘She was in on it from the start. The defendant was getting in private planes and living in extraordinary luxury.
‘These girls were just a means to support the lifestyle to which she had become accustomed.’
Miss Pomerantz told the jury they would hear from ‘Jane’, and other victims too. They included a 16-year-old taken to Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico where Maxwell ‘got the girl on a massage table and started touching the girl’s breasts’.
Another was a 17-year-old whom Maxwell allegedly spotted while driving in her car, ordering her driver to pull over ‘to recruit her’.
The abuse ‘evolved’ over the decade, said the prosecutor.
Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein are shown, left, in 1997. The pilot of the Lolita Express, Lawrence Visoki, right, testified on Tuesday that Trump flew on the plane
Virginia Roberts Giuffre will not be testifying during Maxwell’s trial but will be giving off-the-record briefings to reporters
Journalists set up their shots outside the Manhattan Federal Courthouse where Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial is set to start today
At first, Epstein and Maxwell found the victims themselves, but then in the 2000s they found a ‘more convenient way’, said Miss Pomerantz.
‘They devised a pyramid scheme of abuse,’ she said. ‘They encouraged girls to bring other girls.’
The youngsters were handed wads of cash, but Miss Pomerantz said: ‘These girls were not professional masseuses, they were kids being sexually abused.’
The young women, she said, had been scarred for life: ‘They were exploiting kids. They were trafficking kids for sex. They were dangerous predators who exploited and sexually abused young girls for a decade.’
One of those accused of being a recruiter was Virginia Roberts – the woman who has accused Prince Andrew of raping her, which he denies. Maxwell’s defence lawyer Bobbi Sternheim told jurors one of the alleged victims in the case was introduced to Epstein ‘not by Ghislaine Maxwell’ but by Roberts, now Virginia Giuffre, who was being paid by Epstein ‘to recruit women for massages’. Mrs Giuffre is not taking part in this trial.
Sarah Ransome, one of the women who accused Epstein and Ghislaine of sexual abuse, was seen arriving to the courthouse
Miss Pomerantz said the abuse occurred at Epstein’s homes, including his estate in Palm Beach, Florida; his Manhattan townhouse; a ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico; a Paris apartment; and a luxury estate in the Virgin Islands.
Authorities charged Maxwell in July 2020, a year after Epstein’s suicide, after tracking her to a New Hampshire estate.
She has been jailed in Brooklyn since, calling the claims against her ‘absolute rubbish’. Her family say she was Epstein’s pawn, and was paying ‘a blood price’ to satisfy public desire to see someone held accountable.
As Maxwell left court, her lawyer Jeff Pagliuca gave her a hug and said: ‘Sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite’.
Outside the courthouse, Lisa Bloom, a lawyer who represents eight alleged victims of Epstein and one in the Maxwell case, said Epstein could not have abused the women without Maxwell’s help.
‘My clients are hoping she is convicted of all charges, and that she spends the rest of her life in prison.’
The trial kicked off a day after Maxwell’s brother claimed Andrew had been ‘cancelled’ on ‘dubious grounds’.
Ian Maxwell said that he hopes that his sister will be ‘exonerated at the end of her trial and that that will in some way assist Prince Andrew clear his own name from the charges that he too is facing’.
Speaking to LBC’s Nick Ferrari today, Mr Maxwell was also asked if he had ever discussed his sister’s friendship with the Queen’s son. He replied: ‘I met Prince Andrew at my sister’s home on a couple of occasions, so I didn’t really need to talk to her about it.
‘I knew they were friends, and he’s found himself in this terrible position where he’s effectively been ”cancelled” as a member of the Royal Family, I think on very dubious grounds.
‘So I hope that clearly my sister will be exonerated at the end of her trial and that that will in some way assist Prince Andrew clear his own name from the charges that he too is facing – although those are civil charges – from a very vocal accuser of both of them – who, I might add, is not testifying at the trial, which tells you all you need to know about her credibility.’