The Weekend Australian - Review

NICHOLAS ADAMS-DZIERZBA

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The Hunting Ghislaine podcast taps into what was arguably the biggest story of the year — until it was swallowed by the pandemic. Ghislaine Maxwell is being tried for her alleged key role in Jeffrey Epstein’s sex traffickin­g. John Sweeney, a former BBC Panorama, and Observer newspaper journalist examines how Ghislaine went from being in the thrall of her father Robert Maxwell, a press baron and fraudster, to allegedly procuring young girls for Epstein’s paedophili­a, under the guise of massaging the financier. Heavy emphasis is placed on Ghislaine’s personal issues with racy editoriali­sing: “She loses everything when her father, the first monster in her life dies. She gets it alll back, power, money, society when she meets the second monster. All she has to do is feed him fresh children.”

Picking up where the slick American podcast The Mysterious Mr Epstein left off, Sweeney mixes gumshoe reporting, interviews and debriefs with his producer, and samples audio from other media coverage of the case. He’s a gruff investigat­ive reporter. It’s a thrill hearing him calling numbers in Ghislaine’s little black book, or picking up the phone to the FBI — tenacious oldschool journalism that’s missing in a lot of rehashed true crime podcasts.

The local link is one of the survivors — Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who moved to Australia. What happened to her, and others makes for uncomforta­ble listening, but it is timely with survivor advocate Grace Tame’s Australian of the Year honour. Conspiracy theories abound with Epstein’s links to Donald Trump, Prince Andrew and Bill Clinton. His route to high society wasn’t achieved through his financier money, but facilitate­d by allaged handmaid Ghislaine. Sweeney says he will return to cover the trial, but foreshadow­s the child sex traffickin­g charges stop in 1997, prior to Giuffre’s ordeals. That could mean it’s survivor Annie Farmer’s word against Ghislaine’s. The criminal trial is to start in July 2021.

Listen to Hunting Ghislaine on your favourite podcast app.

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