DAVID GREENE, HOST:
After Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his jail cell, the focus turns now to identifying alleged associates, clients and co-conspirators. Based on court documents, Epstein's longtime friend Ghislaine Maxwell is under scrutiny. She has not been charged with a crime here, we should be clear. But multiple women have accused Maxwell of helping Epstein run his alleged sex-trafficking ring involving girls as young as 14.
Journalist and author Tom Bower wrote a biography of Maxwell's late father, Robert Maxwell. He was a flamboyant and controversial publisher in the U.K. And not long after Maxwell was found dead floating miles from his yacht in 1991, his businesses filed for bankruptcy.
Journalist and author Tom Bower joins me on Skype this morning. Hi, Tom.
TOM BOWER: Pleasure.
GREENE: So what should we know about Ghislaine Maxwell? It sounds like her dad was a pretty big presence in her early life.
BOWER: Well, I think several things. She was the youngest of seven children. And she was utterly spoiled. She was undoubtably, on his own terms, her favorite. He named his yacht after her. He also used to take her, towards the end of his life, on trips all around America with him because he wanted her company, liked a pretty girl next to him. And she was good company. But the real tragedy of her life, in a way, is that Maxwell was a serial crook as a lifelong fraudster. And I think in his home, she never really learned the difference between right and wrong.
And the other tragedy for her was that she was dominated by him, and she learned from him to worship wealth and money and power and influence and really had very little sentiment for what might be called the little people. And so I think by the time he died in 1991, she was a pretty cracked character. She really was flawed by then.
GREENE: Well, I mean, you wrote - and it sounds like some of this comes from the relationship with her father, in your mind, that she would often fall for rich and domineering men. Is that what happened in her relationship with Epstein, and what was their relationship, based on your understanding?
BOWER: Well, I think - well, to begin with, I never saw any evidence of her having a boyfriend. Maxwell wouldn't allow his daughter to bring any boy to his house in Oxford because he always felt they were gold diggers, and he didn't want her to even have a relationship, I think, with any other man. So that - (laughter), there it begins, already a problem. I think when she got to New York after his death in 1991 and she bought a house in Manhattan, she was looking for something similar, a domineering, rich man. And Epstein fulfilled that role. Now, how it transpired then I don't know. When I last met her about six years ago in St-Tropez in South of France, she looked a pretty hardened woman by then. She was by no means the young little girl I'd first seen when I met her father in 1973, way back then.
So she really was a very changed person. But you'd expect that with age or with her experience. But she already at that time was very close to Epstein.
GREENE: I mean, I should mention a couple things here. I mean, her father actually sued you over your biography, saying it mischaracterized him. And Ghislaine Maxwell is denying what she is accused of here. But the allegations are shocking, I mean, that she recruited young girls for him, even abused some herself. How do you react to all that? Does this make sense to you?
BOWER: Regarding her, you know, I just don't know. I mean, the trouble with the Maxwells is, she grew up in a rather odd home, where her parents were co-conspirators in the crookery (ph) - in their frauds. And the relationship with the children was pretty odd.
GREENE: We'll sadly have to stop there. We're out of time. Tom Bower, thanks so much.
And we should say we sought comment from Ghislaine Maxwell through her attorney. We have not heard back from them yet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.