With her disgraced father dead, the family fortune gone and her place in London’s elite social circles in tatters, Ghislaine Maxwell was settling into life in the US.
The youngest child of media tycoon Robert Maxwell was living in a modest apartment in New York after years in her family’s mansion in Oxfordshire, rubbing shoulders with royals and aristocrats.
But Ghislaine soon rose back to the top with the help of the man she began dating in 1992 – billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Two weeks ago he was charged with new underage sex trafficking offences.
Some sources argue Ms Maxwell, 57, may give evidence against her ex-boyfriend after a slew of allegations were made against her by dozens of potential victims.
It is claimed she was known as the “madam” by the alleged victims.
Ms Maxwell, through her lawyers, has always denied claims she “recruited” underage girls for Epstein, now 66.
While socially inept Epstein provided Ms Maxwell the lifestyle she loved, she offered him the connections he craved including the likes of Prince Andrew who has always been dazzled by rich acquaintances.
Euan Rellie, an investment banker who knew the couple, said Ms Maxwell was the “charming, likeable front person”.
He added: “A big part of the reason people talked to him [Epstein] was because of Ghislaine.”
While author Christopher Mason described Ms Maxwell as “saucy”, “fantastically entertaining” and someone who happily spoke about sex.
Epstein, the son of a New York gardener, was a university dropout who taught teenagers at a school in 1974.
Two years later he joined Bear Stearns investment bank before leaving to set up his own investment company which made him a fortune.
His lifestyle was on a par with the one enjoyed by Ms Maxwell as she grew up as the favourite child of her father.
The family – Robert, wife Betty and their nine children – lived in luxury in Headington Hill Hall.
Before he died in 1991 aged 68 when he fell overboard his yacht – named Lady Ghislaine – Robert Maxwell was worth over £1billion.
Suspicions remained about his death after it was found he had looted hundreds of millions from pension funds of his employees including at the Mirror.
Despite the scandal, Ghislaine seemed to get by without much attention. But scandal returned to her life when Epstein was unmasked as a paedophile.
Their relationship was so strong she stood by the American after he pleaded guilty in 2008 to procuring a minor for prostitution and soliciting prostitution by minors.
He was handed an 18-month jail sentence in a controversial plea deal.
The FBI had started its investigation after being tipped off Epstein had been paying for sex with underage girls at his Florida mansion for years.
Prosecutors identified over 40 young women who may have been illegally procured by him.
Now, as he faces new charges, some wonder what, if any role, Ms Maxwell will play.
Their relationship went on long after their romance ended – over almost two decades she helped manage his life and was pivotal in organising parties at his £62million home in Manhattan.
Ms Maxwell also attended an infamous 1992 party at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
It was in Florida, according to court documents seen by the Mirror, Ms Maxwell allegedly helped recruit teenagers to satisfy Epstein’s voracious appetite for massages, which were, accusers claim, “just a pretext for sexual abuse”.
Allegations go far beyond claims Ms Maxwell found girls for him.
Thousands of sealed records from one of the cases are expected to be released in the coming weeks.
Legal papers filed in a civil case in 2017 claimed Ms Maxwell and Epstein got alleged victims to sign agreements preventing them from speaking to police.
The lawsuit claimed: “She [Ms Maxwell] recruited young females… and trained others on how best to recruit girls.”
It was also alleged girls were led to believe they only needed to massage Epstein to have their education funded, but in fact had to “perform sexual acts”.
Ms Maxwell was alleged to have shown an accuser how to massage the pervert and “the techniques he preferred”. The case was settled out of court.
In a 2009 lawsuit against Epstein, Virginia Giuffre alleged Ms Maxwell trained her to satisfy Epstein’s sick lust when she was 16.
She claimed she was lured to Epstein’s home with the promise she could learn massage therapy.
Once there, she said, Ms Maxwell did nothing to stop Epstein forcing her into sexual activity with him, and then paid her £160 that day.
Ms Giuffre said it was the start of an arrangement that lasted several years. She also claimed Ms Maxwell took sexually explicit photos of her.
Ms Maxwell denied all the claims.
In another civil case, a victim claimed Epstein and Ms Maxwell “sexually assaulted her in 1996 when she was a graduate student and flew her 15-year-old sister to his ranch in New Mexico, ordered her to take off her clothes and improperly touched her”.
After the accusations were made Ms Maxwell sold her £12million New York townhouse and disappeared from the city’s party circuit.
Last year, Epstein and Ms Maxwell settled a lawsuit brought by Sarah Ransome, who also alleged she was hired by Ms Maxwell.
Ms Ransome claimed that between 2006 and 2007 the pair offered to pay her tuition fees in exchange for providing sexual favours to Epstein.
She was one of hundreds of young girls he is said to have had in his homes.
As more claims surfaced, Ms Maxwell distanced herself from her former lover.
In recent years she has struck confidential settlements in civil court with two women who say she participated in Epstein’s sexual exploitation of them.
No charges have been filed against Ms Maxwell or anyone else in Epstein’s inner circle.
Her lawyers have at several points issued strenuous denials about the allegations made against her.
Her legal team, who were unavailable for comment yesterday, have insisted she moved to London.
Now as prosecutors build their case against her ex-lover, the socialite is nowhere to be seen.