For 11 years, top American lawyer Bradley Edwards made it his ‘life’s mission’ on behalf of countless young women victims to put Jeffrey Epstein behind bars. Now in a compelling new book, entitled Relentless Pursuit, stories from which we are featuring over three weeks, he tells how he brought the ‘sociopath with unlimited wealth’ to justice…
Virginia Roberts was a striking 16-year-old with drive and a determination to improve herself. She was doing just that – reading a book on a bench one lunchtime – outside Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. Her father, who worked at the club as a maintenance man, had helped her to get a job there that summer of 1999 as a towel girl in the women’s changing rooms.
Suddenly, the teenager was approached by a smartly dressed and rather charming woman. A British accent added to the sense of allure.
The woman showed an interest in the book Virginia was reading – on massage therapy, as it happened – and wasted no time telling her that she could get her a job with a billionaire friend who owned a house just around the corner.
'Sex slave': Virginia Roberts, pictured in Australia in 2011, met Jeffrey Epstein in 1999. She was a striking 16-year-old with drive and a determination to improve herself
Virginia’s reaction was disarmingly honest, telling the well-spoken stranger that she knew little about massage and was merely interested to learn about it as a potential career.
This didn’t matter, said the woman: she and the billionaire friend would teach Virginia anything she needed to know. ‘I’m Ghislaine. See you tonight,’ she added, handing over Epstein's address.
Virginia’s head was spinning. A girl from a family where money had always been a struggle was really about to start working for a billionaire?
She ran to her father, excited. Someone thought she was important. This was her chance and she couldn’t let it slip.
For Virginia, as I was to learn when I became her lawyer, had endured a difficult childhood. As a teenager, her parents had put her in a home for troubled girls but she ran away to Miami. There, she had been groomed by a man almost 50 years her senior who was running a prostitution racket.
After a brief involvement with the police, her parents rescued her and got her the job at Mar-a-Lago. I first met Virginia in 2014, after taking on the case of a 20-year-old girl called Courtney Wild who had been sexually assaulted by Jeffrey Epstein.
At first, the case sounded easy. It was anything but. Over the course of 11 years, the investigation took me all over the United States and beyond.
Virginia Roberts, I discovered, was one of countless young girls involved with Epstein and had begun a civil lawsuit against him.
She had been to his house in New York (one of the largest townhouses in Manhattan), his ranch in New Mexico (which had its own airplane runway), his apartment in Paris, and his private island in the US Virgin Islands, Little Saint James (which was nicknamed Little Saint Jeff’s).
She had travelled the world with Epstein and was a true insider with detailed knowledge of the structure of his organisation.
She held the key to building a water-tight case against him and putting him where he belonged – behind bars.
David Boies, representing several of Epstein's alleged victims, centre, arrives with Annie Farmer, right, and Virginia Giuffre, alleged victims of Epstein, second left, in New York in 2019
She recounted how her father had driven her that evening in 1999 to Epstein’s palatial Palm Beach mansion at El Brillo Way.
Too naive to be scared, Virginia hopped out of the car and went to the front door boiling with excitement, ready to learn. She was pinching herself to remember that this wasn’t just a dream.
‘Jeffrey has been waiting to meet you,’ said Maxwell as she greeted her at the door, before heading up the stairs. ‘Follow me.’
Virginia was taken to a bedroom, where Maxwell instructed her on every aspect of how to perform a massage, from the location and placement of the oils to the length of time she would need to spend on each portion of the body.
Then, standing by the massage table, Virginia turned to look and saw an older man walking in her direction wearing only a towel and a big, childish grin. ‘I’m Jeffrey,’ he said, before lying down.
Maxwell and Jeffrey seemed almost giddy while asking Virginia questions about her life and her future, interspersed with Maxwell’s instructions on how to give a proper massage.
The older woman wasted little time before stripping off all her clothes and telling Virginia to do the same. Epstein then sexually assaulted Virginia. ‘Doesn’t that feel good?’ he asked.
She wasn’t sure what to think and definitely wasn’t sure what to say. Yet such was Maxwell’s confidence that Virginia simply assumed this was the way massages were performed in the world of the rich and famous. That she should, in other words, get with the programme or get another job.
‘You did great. He really loved you,’ Maxwell told Virginia afterwards. ‘Can you come back tomorrow?’
‘Of course,’ Virginia responded. But her mind was still whirling and she spent the rest of the night crying in the bathroom of her parents’ house.
Yet she also knew that Epstein had just paid her more money than she had been paid in her entire life for no more than an hour of her time.
By the time she was 17, Virginia was travelling around with this billionaire and Maxwell, part of what Virginia called their ‘dysfunctional family’. She was interacting – mostly as a sex slave – with powerful people.
Maxwell called Epstein’s girls her ‘children’, referring to herself as ‘mother hen’. She was the one who knew what Epstein liked.
Sex seemed vital to Epstein’s survival. As another of his victims, Johanna, told me: ‘He needed to have three orgasms a day. It was biological, like eating.’ Epstein had a particular type of girl. The younger the better. White. No tattoos. No piercings. No pregnancies. The girls had to look ‘pure’.
Once, Courtney Wild brought an African-American girl to Epstein’s house. He took Courtney inside and left the other girl outside. He handed Courtney $200 and said: ‘Do not ever do that again.’
Maxwell taught Virginia all the skills she needed to keep him happy. Those included how to act in front of important and powerful people, how to dress, how to hold her knife and fork, and, of course, how to please him – and his friends – sexually.
Epstein pictured with Maxwell. The most seemingly outrageous claim that Virginia made during our interviews was that she was taken by Epstein and Maxwell to London
Maxwell, an elegant figure whose social circle included not just leading business figures but members of the Royal Family, was the one woman whom Epstein appeared to treat as an equal. She was a chameleon, blending in with high and low society as it suited.
The most seemingly outrageous claim that Virginia made during our interviews was that she was taken by Epstein and Maxwell to London, where she was lent out to Prince Andrew, the Duke of York.
During my first conversation with Virginia, I asked her to provide proof of some of her allegations.
She sent me the directions she had been given to Epstein’s home as well as travel and hotel receipts charged to Epstein’s card.
Not long afterwards, Virginia showed me a photograph of herself, aged 17, wedged in between Maxwell and Andrew. She said it was taken by Epstein in Maxwell’s apartment in London in 2001. Of all the people she claimed to have been introduced to and made to have sex with, the Duke of York sounded the most preposterous.
Yet here was a picture of the two of them arm in arm, smiling like a happy pair out for the night – even though he’s 23 years her senior.
It was further confirmation of an extraordinary sex abuse enterprise that I was discovering went far beyond what was uncovered in Florida. I knew that Epstein was addicted to sex with children and had assistants scheduling multiple appointments per day with different girls.
He travelled all the time, all over the world, with the same assistants, who clearly knew what he was up to.
While there had not been any evidence of Prince Andrew spending time at Epstein’s Palm Beach house while young girls were upstairs with Epstein, witnesses had confirmed that the billionaire and the Prince were close friends.
Next, I obtained evidence of at least one more encounter between Andrew and Epstein. Another of his victims, Johanna, said she vividly remembered seeing Andrew at Epstein’s New York mansion.
She described how Virginia was sitting on one of Andrew’s knees and Johanna herself was sitting on the other. While the two girls were in his lap, Ghislaine Maxwell took out a puppet figure of Andrew and placed the puppet’s hand on Virginia’s breast, at which point Andrew placed his hand on Johanna’s breast. Everyone laughed.
Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, an elegant figure whose social circle included members of the Royal Family, pictured attending Batman Forever on June 13, 1995, in New York City
He was an intellectually gifted sociopath with unlimited wealth who lived a virtually unconstrained life. The rules he – and those in his fold – lived by were his own.
Epstein had amassed extensive political and worldly connections. For decades, he used his tremendous fortune to sexually exploit women and girls, some as young as 14. Our team was working hard to stay focused on what mattered to secure a conviction. Virginia had important revelations that should not be silenced.
While Epstein and his entourage were looking to shut her down, she was determined to be heard. Because Virginia liked Amy Robach, of the ABC network, we chose her and flew with Virginia to New York in April 2015 for the taping of an interview in which she would set down her full story.
The interview was powerful. In fact, we were told it was one of the best interviews anyone had seen and would air on Good Morning America. The Epstein organisation was finally going to be exposed.
But after being strung along for weeks, we were told that because Virginia talked about her interactions with Prince Andrew, the network had to seek comment from the Royal Family and from an attorney for Epstein, since nearly the entire story discussed the inner workings of his sex-trafficking organisation.
For some reason, both presented a problem for ABC. We were not told much other than the network was scared it would lose access to the Royal Family if it aired the interview.
More than four years later, after Epstein’s sexual abuse was widely reported, Amy expressed her frustration: ‘I’ve had the story for three years.
‘I’ve had this interview with Virginia Roberts. We would not put it on the air. I was told the Palace found out that we had her whole allegation about Prince Andrew and threatened us in a million different ways.
‘We were so afraid we wouldn’t be able to interview Kate [Middleton] and [Prince] Will. That also quashed the story.’
While Virginia Roberts was travelling the world with Epstein and Maxwell, she had a boyfriend – one much closer in age – called Tony. He didn’t ask many questions, even though he knew what was going on. Virginia had told him, for example, that she didn’t wish to sleep with Prince Andrew but that it was necessary if they were to maintain their lifestyle.
There came a time, however, when life inside Epstein’s debauched world became too much for even a strong soul such as her.
At the age of 19, when she had been involved in the sex cult for over two years, Epstein and Maxwell came up with a proposal that turned her stomach: they wanted her to carry his baby.
They told Virginia she would be taken care of for the rest of her life if she would agree to give Epstein and Maxwell a child, although there were some strings attached. In particular, she would have to sign a contract agreeing that the baby was not her own, but the legal child of Epstein and Maxwell.
It was the final straw. She couldn’t bear the thought of Epstein and Maxwell raising her child. She knew she had to escape.
At Epstein’s direction, Virginia had been dispatched there to pick up a young girl, interview her, and let Epstein know if she was ‘qualified’. But rather than meet the girl Virginia recognised her chance to escape. She went into town and met a man from Australia who fell in love with her and promised to take care of her.
Over 11 years, I represented more than 30 victims in lawsuits and claims against Epstein and in the end, justice was finally served. He was arrested.
But he convinced a psychologist to let him off suicide watch. Of course he did. He could convince anyone of anything. He was the most notorious child molester on the planet.
He had fallen overnight from a jet-setting billionaire who controlled everyone around him to a caged animal at the mercy of prison guards and inmates. All signs indicated a high risk for suicide. A month later, he was found hanging in his cell. He’d escaped responsibility once again.
Even though he died, the story of Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes should not. I owe it to the brave women, such as Virginia Roberts, who came forward to seek justice, to share what really happened.
By The Mail on Sunday, based on Relentless Pursuit: My Fight For The Victims Of Jeffrey Epstein, by Bradley J Edwards, published by S&S on March 31, priced at £20. Offer price £16 (20 per cent discount) until April 30. To preorder, go to mailshop.co.uk or call 01603 648155. Free delivery on all orders – no minimum spend
I was sitting at lunch with two of my law partners when I got a call on my mobile phone that showed the incoming number as 0000000000.
I had never seen a phone number come up like that, so I walked outside and answered the call. ‘Brad, it’s Jeffrey. Let’s meet face to face.’
When I asked why, he responded: ‘I want to see if there’s a way for us to finally get divorced from one another.’
Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, with Virginia Roberts, aged 17, at Ghislaine Maxwell's apartment in London. The photo was developed in March 2001
Yes, this was unusual. But things between us were far beyond anything lawyers could fix. It was just gamesmanship, part of an eight-year legal chess game between a genius sociopath and me, a lawyer in the business of playing legal chess against bad guys.
I showed up to the Starbucks first. Epstein appeared wearing his customary grey sweatpants and blue suede slippers with the collar turned up on his monogrammed polo shirt.
He thought female sexual availability should be determined by biology and not established by arbitrary social norms – or the law. Under his law, science was all that mattered. Pre-pubescence, therefore, was where he drew the line.
According to Epstein, the age of consent, if dictated by anything other than biology, was arbitrary – which was a word signifying that it should have no application in any aspect of his life.
How could a female whose body was able to bear children not be given the choice to perform the acts necessary to give birth?
In his own twisted ideology, he thought he was invincible. He basically said as much. He loved to name-drop to let me know how important and protected he was. The more we talked, the clearer certain things about him became. He was a very torn soul.
He wanted to resolve his legal problems, all of which stemmed from his sexually deviant behaviour, but he didn’t really want to change that behaviour.
He loved to make jokes that were particularly inappropriate for the situation. He said something along the lines of, ‘Brad, let’s put our heads together and figure out how we can massage the narrative to make it more fair to me’, before staring at me and pausing. Then he added: ‘My kind of massage, of course.’
The Duke of York with Emily Maitlis, who interviewed him for a BBC Newsnight special. Prince Andrew has repeatedly and strenuously denied Miss Roberts’s claims
These types of childish statements were irresistible for Epstein. He would snicker afterwards, expecting a reciprocal laugh.
While at Starbucks, Jeffrey looked at me and said: ‘You know, some of what Virginia [Roberts] is saying isn’t right.’
‘Didn’t Virginia say she and Ghislaine had a threesome with Prince Andrew over in Ghislaine’s apartment in London?’ He was clearly trying to embellish things to make her appear unbelievable.
I corrected him: ‘No. She didn’t say anything about a threesome, but now that you bring it up, she did say that she was with you and Ghislaine at the apartment in London when Prince Andrew came over and stayed the night. You instructed her to entertain him. There’s even a picture to prove most of that.’
He said: ‘There’s a problem. Now I remember. She said she took a bath with Andy. If I could show you how small Ghislaine’s bath was in that apartment, it would be tough for two people to fit.’
This seemed like a weak point to force. ‘How about the threesomes with you and Ghislaine where Virginia was made to dress up as a Catholic schoolgirl and sometimes in latex outfits,’ I said. ‘That certainly doesn’t seem far-fetched given that Juan Alessi [Epstein’s former housekeeper] testified about Ghislaine’s sex toys and we know you particularly enjoy the schoolgirls in uniform.’
He smirked and said: ‘Does Ghislaine look like my type to you? Don’t you know me better by now?’
He loved to make comments like that, poking fun at the fact that he was attracted to young girls, a category into which Ghislaine Maxwell did not fall.
During the summer of 2009, we began seeking information from those who had reportedly been close friends of Epstein, including Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, and I issued subpoenas demanding that they tell us what they knew.
The first of Epstein’s powerful friends to respond in a meaningful way was Trump. He explained that he was a business acquaintance of Epstein from many years earlier. He said the two had attended many of the same events and parties, but that he was not as close with Epstein as the media had made it seem.
I reminded Trump that he had been quoted in a 2002 New York magazine article stating: ‘I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it – Jeffrey enjoys his social life.’
Close: Donald Trump posing with future wife Melania, Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell at the Mar-a-Lago club in Florida in 2000
Trump had an answer for this, saying when that article was being written, Epstein called him to say he needed people to say nice things. So he’d asked Trump if he would attribute the quote –written by Jeff himself – as his own words. As it was long before the allegations of Epstein’s abuse surfaced, Trump had agreed.
Trump did say that he always saw Epstein around younger girls, but to his knowledge, none was under age. He said Epstein was not secretive about his lifestyle and whether it was at a party, a private event, or a public event, there were always multiple young women at his side.
I asked about a rumour that Trump had expelled Epstein from the Mar-a-Lago club for trying to take the 15-year-old daughter of a member home with him.
Trump paused before saying that something along those lines happened, but he could not recall the exact details.
He had not spoken with Epstein in years, he said. The last time he remembered seeing Epstein personally was one day when he went to Epstein’s house in Palm Beach for a business meeting, and that was before Epstein’s legal troubles came to light. Trump recalled he had seen young women who, Epstein explained, were part of a mentoring-type programme that he was involved in.
Trump admitted this was odd and then quickly said to me: ‘The guy was always strange. Even back when I ran into him more, I never really liked him.’
I met Trump again in 2015, when he again maintained that his relationship with Epstein was primarily based on business.
Over the next few years, I spoke to several witnesses who told us that they had been introduced by Epstein to Trump. Some had seen him at Epstein’s office, others at one of Epstein’s homes, at parties or social events, and even on his plane. In fact, Epstein bragged to certain young women in his life about how he had bailed Trump out of bankruptcy and how he was indebted to him.
Last year, I saw a 1992 video of Epstein and Trump together, suggesting that they were closer social friends than I had been made to understand.
I spoke to several witnesses, some of whom said they had been introduced by Epstein to Trump. Some had seen him at Epstein’s office, others at one of Epstein’s homes, at parties or social events, and even on Epstein’s plane.
And Epstein was happy to use his name when trying to pressure me into dropping the legal action. ‘There is no way they will prosecute me,’ he said. ‘This will go all the way up to the Attorney General. You know Trump was my friend and [Attorney General William] Barr is his boy.’
That said, whether Trump was ever a closer friend than he let on was of no real concern to me. None of the people I interviewed who had met Trump through Epstein claimed that he had engaged in any improper sexual activity, nor did they say that Trump was around when minors were present.
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