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Party at Headington Hall

Friday 12 February 2021

Could a ribald evening thirty years ago shed light on the mindset of Ghislaine Maxwell?

Locked up in New York, Ghislaine Maxwell may not wish to be reminded of the party games of her youth, but some are hard to forget. 

One game described this week by a guest at a houseparty hosted by Maxwell allegedly involved blindfolds for the men, semi-nudity for the women and a bizarre form of intimacy that went some way beyond after-dinner conversation. 

The 59 year-old Maxwell, who faces sex trafficking and perjury charges related to her friendship with the late billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, is said to have held the party about three months before the death in 1991 of her father, the newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell. 

The venue was the family’s Headington Hall mansion in Oxfordshire. The guest list – about eight names long – did not include the senior Maxwells.

“We had a perfectly nice meal and then [Ghislaine] announced as a sort of MC that she was in charge of games,” Nicola Glucksmann recalled at a Tortoise ThinkIn on John Preston’s new book about the Maxwells, Fall

For the first of these games Maxwell “came out of the next room, to which she had retired briefly, with blindfolds for the men,” Glucksmann said. “And then the women were to take off their tops and their bras and present their breasts to the men, who were to identify the women from the size and feel of their breasts.”

Maxwell’s guests that weekend are said to have included Steve Wyatt, the heir to a Texan oil fortune who was later romantically involved with Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, and Susannah Constantine, later half of the Trinny and Susannah fashion duo.

Glucksmann, a clinical psychiatrist, attended as a friend of Lisa Belzberg, now an adjunct professor at Columbia University in New York. She says she and Belzberg withdrew from the room where dinner had been served before any game could be played, so can’t be sure what happened next.

“We were so bemused, so very, very out of our depth,” she says.

At the ThinkIn, Glucksmann said the evening at Headington Hall had stayed with her ever since, especially in light of the “tragedy” of Maxwell’s alleged involvement in Epstein’s serial abuse of young women. “There was something about her understanding of sex as simply a currency that came back to haunt me,” she said. “There was a kind of studied superficiality she had about her. She was very sassy, but very savvy.”

Constantine, Wyatt and Belzberg were approached by Tortoise but declined to comment or did not respond.