Big day for Ghislaine Maxwell as sex trafficking trial begins in New York

Ghislaine Maxwell's fame - or notoriety - drew hundreds to the courthouse, ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy reports

It’s a big day for Ghislaine Maxwell - the start of the trial she hopes will clear her name of the sex claims which have surrounded her for years.

A big day too for those women, who as young girls, some as young as 14, say she recruited and groomed them so they could be abused by her then business partner and sometime lover Jeffrey Epstein.

In recollections from that time, a number of girls have told how Ghislaine would befriend them, entice them into the Maxwell/Epstein sphere, offer money and education before shifting the agenda to sex.

They say she was a fun and welcoming woman so that is why they initially felt safe. They are grown women themselves now and after nearly three decades will have their days in court.

They will claim that lifestyles which initially seemed glamorous became grubby then criminal.

There are others for whom this will be a big day too - those who are desperately hoping their names are not exposed in this case. The fun and welcoming woman who appealed to the young girls also appealed to America’s great and good.

With the Maxwell name, she was in demand on the social scene when she came to New York in 1991, shortly after the death of her father Robert Maxwell.

Ghislaine Maxwell stands facing her attorney in the courtroom prior to a hearing earlier in November. Credit: Court sketch by Elizabeth Williams/AP

She was friends with royalty, and the friendship she built with Epstein, personally and professionally, added to her allure. They became the golden couple, fixture friends for the rich and famous.

Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, the bosses of banks and of Wall Street were part of their world.

Some were burnt in their orbit, reputationally damaged when the Epstein scandal broke.

Others slipped away no doubt hoping their association, whether in New York or in many of the other playgrounds they frequented, will never become public.

Epstein died before his trial. Ghislaine’s may be the one that exposes them.

In fine homes across the world, those who were once friends will be hoping she does not take them down as she seeks so save herself.