The women who spoke in court have spent decades fighting to be believed - their young lives destroyed by Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein, as Emma Murphy reports outside the court in New York
Ghislaine Maxwell has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for luring young girls to massage rooms for disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse.
The 60-year-old looked straight ahead and showed no emotion as a judge in the Southern District of New York passed sentence in front of a packed public gallery.
Her accusers came face to face with her on Tuesday as several women read victim impact statements to the court – describing her as a “manipulative, cruel and merciless person.”
Minutes ahead of her sentencing, Maxwell apologised to the victims of her abuses and said she hopes her prison time will allow them “peace and finality.”
Speaking outside court, Annie Farmer, a victim who had testified during the trial, described her apology as "hollow."
Oxford-raised Maxwell, who was labelled “dangerous” by the prosecution during her three-week trial last year, helped entice vulnerable teenagers to the disgraced financier’s various properties for him to sexually abuse between 1994 and 2004.
Sentencing Maxwell, Judge Alison Nathan told the court she “repeatedly, and over the course of many years participated in a horrific scheme to traffic young girls, some the age of 14.”
Judge Nathan said it was important that although “Epstein was central to this scheme” she was not being sentenced “as a proxy” for him.
She said: “The defendant’s conduct… was heinous and predatory.
“Ms Maxwell worked with Epstein to select young victims who were vulnerable and played a pivotal role in facilitating sexual abuse.”
Her victims were forced to live through the “painful, horrific and lasting impact of that trauma”, the judge added.
Maxwell's crimes 'torture' her 'every single day' - but she will appeal
Maxwell said meeting Epstein was the “greatest regret of my life” and that she wanted to “acknowledge the suffering” of her victims.
“I know my association with Epstein will follow and and forever stain me,” she said addressing the court moments before her sentence was handed down. “It is the greatest regret of my life that I ever met Jeffrey Epstein.”
Addressing her victims directly, she said: “To you, all the victims that came to today inside the court and outside… I am sorry for the pain you have experienced.
“I hope my sentence… brings you closure… peace and finality. To help you put those experiences in a place that helps you move forward.”
Maxwell said the knowledge of the effects of her crimes “tortures me every single day”, and that she hoped the sentence “brings this terrible chapter to an end and… help you travel from darkness into the light.”
Her attorney confirmed outside court they will be lodging an appeal against the sentence, claiming Maxwell has been "vilified" every day and judged in the "court of public opinion."
Victims of Maxwell told the court in the Southern District of New York of her “relentless and insatiable drive to meet the sexual needs of Epstein” and their “retraumatisation” over having to give evidence during the trial.
The socialite was convicted in December last year of sex trafficking minors, conspiracy to entice a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, and conspiracy to transport a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
She was also found guilty of transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.
Maxwell’s defence lawyers sought a delay to sentencing proceedings through a motion filed on Saturday, in which they said she had been placed on “suicide watch” and was “not permitted to possess and review legal documents.”
Her attorneys had also previously moved for a retrial after it emerged one of the jurors in her trial had failed to disclose he was a victim of sexual abuse, but her conviction was upheld.
What did Maxwell's victims say during the trial?
Throughout the trial, the court heard how she imposed a “culture of silence… by design” at Epstein’s properties, where staff were told to “see nothing, hear nothing and say nothing.”
One of Maxwell’s accusers, who testified under the pseudonym “Jane”, told jurors that as well as luring her to an orgy at the age of 14, the defendant and Epstein would fondle each other and giggle in front of her.
She also told jurors how Epstein would use sex toys on her “even though it hurt” and did not tell anyone about the abuse because she was “terrified” and “felt gross and ashamed”.
Maxwell’s trial also heard how she told another accuser, who testified under the pseudonym “Carolyn”, that she had a “great body for Epstein and his friends”.
Carolyn said the defendant had touched her breasts in Epstein’s massage room before telling her she had a “great body type”.
Jurors also heard how Carolyn had been introduced to the predatory pair through Ms Giuffre, and that she had been in the same room while Epstein and Ms Giuffre had sex.
The third accuser, who testified under the pseudonym “Kate”, said she had a schoolgirl outfit laid out for her by Maxwell before a sexualised massage with Epstein.
Kate said the defendant then told her to take Epstein his tea in the outfit, and when asked by the accuser why the outfit was on her bed, Maxwell said she “thought it would be fun”.
The jury was told Maxwell asked Kate if she knew of anyone who could come to her house and give Epstein oral sex because it was “a lot for her to do”.
The only accuser to testify under her full name, Annie Farmer, told jurors she was left “frozen” when the socialite asked her to undress for a massage and rubbed her breasts.
Ms Farmer said the defendant encouraged her to have a massage after teaching her how to rub Epstein’s feet at the age of 16.