By RNZ

The whereabouts of 57-year-old socialite Ghislaine Maxwell - the woman at the heart of the sex allegations against Prince Andrew - remains a complete mystery.

It has been another uncomfortable week for Prince Andrew with further revelations of his socialising with the disgraced and deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein, more calls for the Prince to go to the US and testify in sex trafficking cases being heard against Epstein, and a BBC Panorama interview with Virginia Giuffre, who's alleged she was procured, persuaded by Ms Maxwell to have sex with Prince Andrew.

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005. Photo / Getty Images
Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005. Photo / Getty Images

Ms Maxwell was constantly at Jeffrey Epstein's side and had allegedly found young women for Epstein.

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Among this past week's claims is that in 2015 Prince Andrew emailed her seeking information on Virginia Giuffre, Virginia Roberts, as she was then.

The world's media sleuths are trying to find Ms Maxwell, so far without success.

One of them is Mark Edmonds, a regular writer for publications like Tatler, the Sunday Times and the Financial Times.

He said he'd knocked on a lot of doors, but some were "completely inaccessible".

"I know where she is. I don't know her address, but my contacts suggest she is with the authorities in [the United States of] America ... the FBI or some sort of law enforcement agency," he said.

"She couldn't possibly disappear, where would she go?"

She's neither been charged nor accused of anything apart from any mention in the documents from the women who have already filed affidavits against Epstein.

Mr Edmonds believed she was helping the FBI with information and would get a plea bargain in return.

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"Somebody like her is not going to move to Brazil or an island off Tahiti or a weird suburb of Auckland. It's not going to happen."

Her father Robert Maxwell was a powerful figure in the media in London.

"He owned the Daily Mirror for a period and prior to that made a lot of money in publishing. He was a real character who a lot of politicians sucked up to," Mr Edmonds said.

Ms Maxwell was his "favourite child".

She met Epstein in New York.

Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell. Photo / Getty Images
Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell. Photo / Getty Images

"She would meet unbelievably beautiful girls in a bar in New York or in a hotel, and they'd be kind of screened, and a couple of weeks later they'd get a phone call 'Jeffrey would like to meet you'. What happens afterwards I don't know," he said.

"To be fair to her, she's not been proven guilty of anything."

Mr Edmonds said the supposition was that Epstein had the money, Ms Maxwell had the contacts.

He said she might have been the fixer but "possibly a victim too ... it was a tricky relationship".

"She's such a sort of visible person, it is impossible for her to be invisible.

"I suspect Ghislaine will pop up within the next year."

He said cooperating with authorities "was her only way out".

Many more people could be implicated eventually.

"The papers in London have been suggesting that it's unlikely that Prince Andrew would be visiting America fairly soon. It is a time bomb waiting to go off."

Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?

Born in 1961, the British socialite grew up in the idyllic Oxfordshire countryside and is the daughter of Robert Maxwell - a Czech-born newspaper tycoon and British lawmaker who died under mysterious circumstances. The media magnate fell off his luxury yacht - called "Lady Ghislaine" - around the Canary Islands in 1991. He was posthumously discovered to have committed a massive pension fraud against his employees.

According to Roy Greenslade, who worked for the media mogul as editor of The Daily Mirror in the early 1990s, Maxwell "doted" on Ghislaine "in a way that he didn't on his sons."

"He was a monstrous father," Greenslade recalls. "He treated his whole family very badly." But when it came to the youngest of his nine children, Maxwell "treated her more leniently than any of them."

In his biography of the tycoon, "Maxwell: The Rise and Fall of Robert Maxwell and his Empire," Greenslade recalls one evening in particular when he was sitting in an office with Maxwell and the daredevil teenager wandered in. He says Maxwell gave his daughter a scolding for "always taking risks, doing stupid, dangerous things" after she had a near-fatal accident after diving off a boat.

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"She was quite clever at dealing with him," Greenslade explains, adding that she always spoke sweetly to her father in ways that he found difficult to challenge.

After Ghislaine left, Greenslade says Maxwell turned to him with a sense of pride in his voice: "She's like me."

That, Greenslade says, is evidence of perhaps why he favoured her the most.

In 1991 the media mogul died, with an inquest ruling that his death was due to a heart attack combined with accidental drowning. However, some believe Maxwell's death was suicide with his business empire teetering on the brink of ruin.

There were plaudits at the time for the way Ghislaine handled the family tragedy. "People who were there at the time (when Maxwell died), said she dealt with it brilliantly," Greenslade said. "Dry-eyed, dealing well with the press."

Following her father's death, Maxwell reportedly moved to the United States.

"She was probably left with no money," Greenslade says, despite many speculating she secured income from a secret trust.

In the US, Maxwell lived a public life and socialised in exclusive circles that included people connected to politics.

Maxwell was photographed with US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump in 2000, alongside Epstein.

She was also in the background of the infamous photograph of Prince Andrew that appears to show him with his arms around the waist of his alleged victim, Giuffre. The Duke of York has said he has "no recollection of the photograph ever being taken" and suggested that the photo could have been faked.

In 2012 Maxwell founded the charity, the TerraMar Project, which sought to encourage ocean conservation. However, the non-profit ceased operations in December 2019, according to records at the UK's Companies House. The same year federal prosecutors in New York unsealed a criminal indictment charging Epstein with having operated a sex trafficking ring between 2002 and 2005 where he paid girls as young as 14 to have sex with him.

The pair are reported to have split in the 1990s, although the socialite remained close to the paedophile. Her name has been frequently mentioned in a cache of documents that were unsealed earlier this year that allege she was a procurer for Epstein and other high-profile people.

In 2003 Epstein described Maxwell as his best friend in a profile with Vanity Fair.

- additional reporting CNN