The new LBC podcast Ghislaine hunting it is described as “a tale that happens the wrong way, of how a princess ends up becoming some kind of monster herself. . . where no one ends up being happy and content. “It’s an over-cooked introduction to an otherwise compelling and extraordinarily detailed podcast about Ghislaine Maxwell, the ex-girlfriend of the deceased and disgraced billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.
The series is written and hosted by longtime British reporter John Sweeney known for his work on the BBC news series Panorama. Many will remember him as the man who lost his temper and yelled at Scientology Rep Tommy Davies, for whom he later apologized.
Epstein was arrested in July last year on charges of trafficking young girls. He died in prison a month later; the cause of death, according to the authorities, was suicide. Epstein’s accusers have said that Maxwell played a central role in providing him with victims – Sweeney calls her “a handmaid of child abuse.” The podcast’s title doesn’t quite fit the story, since we know exactly where she is: in jail, after being arrested in New Hampshire on child trafficking charges. In fact, as Sweeney himself points out, the series is less concerned with the “where” than the “why”.
To know the woman, we must know the father. Thus, the first episode, “Monsters”, centers on Robert Maxwell, the media magnate who died in 1991 in mysterious circumstances on his superyacht, which was called Lady Ghislaine. Maxwell Sr was, by all accounts, a nightmare – not for nothing the presenter compares him to Logan Roy, the fearsome patriarch of the TV series. Succession. It reveals a man who mistreated his children, fired employees on a whim and was known to urinate in public, including peeing from the roof of the Mirror office building in London, showering urine on the street and on passersby.
Here Sweeney plays in his element: free from the constraints of a national broadcaster, he is delighted to quote the famous verse from Philip Larkin’s poem about mothers and fathers. After a clip from an archived interview Discs of the desert island, in which Maxwell says he hopes he has left the world a better place by stepping into it, Sweeney adds curtly, “Let’s try to be the judge of this, shall we?” In another clip, the tycoon describes his group of newspapers as one of the “world’s leading publishers”, which Sweeney dismisses, pointing out that Maxwell’s empire was close to financial collapse at the time.
Sweeney’s tone may be skeptical and her narrative often colorful, but that doesn’t mean the podcast is anything but rigorous and authoritative. Very similar The Sun King, David Dimbleby’s series on Murdoch’s Empire, Ghislaine hunting creates an illuminating and highly disturbing listening.