‘Let’s say we didn’t knock politely’: Officer describes how FBI agents smashed down Ghislaine Maxwell’s door and hauled her off in handcuffs after she gave them the slip in year-long $5m game of ‘cat and mouse’
- FBI agents and police raided Maxwell’s New Hampshire home Thursday morning
- Oficers smashed through the front door to find her sitting down, dressed smartly
- Her capture followed a £4 million, year-long cross-country ‘cat-and-mouse’ hunt
- She was arrested on six counts including children grooming and trafficking
Armed officers smashed down the front door of Ghislaine Maxwell’s secret hideaway before hauling her off in handcuffs.
Amid dramatic new details about the raid which led to the capture of Prince Andrew’s close friend emerge, The Mail on Sunday can also reveal:
- FBI spy planes flew above the £800,000 home, Tuckedaway, where Maxwell was staying from 4.20am – four hours before the bust – to ensure she didn’t flee;
- The stunned socialite ‘barely registered’ having handcuffs slapped on her wrists;
- Maxwell’s capture followed a £4 million, year-long ‘cat-and-mouse’ hunt for her by the FBI which saw her slip through their net at least once;
- Lawyers for victims admitted a conviction is ‘no slam-dunk’ and fear she will potentially seek to escape justice by using a controversial 2008 plea deal that allowed paedophile Jeffrey Epstein to serve just 13 months, mostly on day release;
- Her legal team vowed ‘This is war’ as she prepared for the possibility of life behind bars in one of New York’s toughest jails.
Armed officers smashed down the front door of Ghislaine Maxwell’s secret New Hampshire hideaway before hauling her off in handcuffs, an officer has told the Mail
The raid on the 156-acre property where Maxwell was staying in Bradford, New Hampshire, swung into action at 8.20am on Thursday when 24 armed FBI agents, officers from the local police force, New York police and New Hampshire’s gang task force used bolt-cutters to break the lock on a metal gate leading to the secluded property that she bought for cash last December.
An officer told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We drove at speed up the half-mile driveway in a convoy of 15 vehicles. And let’s just say, we didn’t knock politely on the door. It was smashed down.
The raid on the 156-acre property where Maxwell was staying in Bradford, New Hampshire, swung into action at 8.20am on Thursday with 24 armed FBI agents and police officers
‘Maxwell was up and dressed, in the living room, wearing sweat pants and a top. Strangely she didn’t seem to have much reaction. It was like it wasn’t registering with her.
‘She was turned around quickly and cuffed. She was in custody in a matter of seconds.’
Neighbours were alerted four hours earlier at 4.20am when they heard planes overhead.
Dick Morris, 59, a carpenter who lives opposite, said: ‘I heard what I first thought was a para plane, basically an engine with a seat and parachute, which is common around here. You hear one for ten minutes and it’s gone. But this went on and on.
An officer told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We drove at speed up the half-mile driveway in a convoy of 15 vehicles. And let’s just say, we didn’t knock politely on the door. It was smashed down’
‘I went out to load my truck at 7am and the plane was still going. I thought, “What the heck is this guy doing buzzing around and around?” ‘I peered up through the trees and caught a glimpse of a small Cessna-type plane high up and buzzing in a wide circle.
‘Then I noticed another plane so there were two of them, like opposite sides of a circle, this high-altitude circle of planes buzzing around and around.
‘Later I realised it had to be the FBI making sure she didn’t leave before the raid team got there.’
An insider with knowledge of the year-long hunt said FBI agents have been ‘on her tail’ since last August when Epstein killed himself in a New York jail after being arrested on child prostitution and trafficking charges.
A staged photograph of Maxwell sitting outside a branch of In’N’Out Burger in Los Angeles was released by friends days later, but investigators concluded it was a ruse to throw them off the scent.
The source said: ‘This has taken millions of dollars and hundreds of man hours. At least five million bucks, maybe more.
‘The FBI has been tracking her for a year. They had her, then they lost her. She was in Colorado and Wyoming then they lost her until she showed up in New Hampshire. It’s been a high-stakes game of cat and mouse.
‘They had to build a case and put it in front of a grand jury. These things take time. She slipped through the net once but as soon as the grand jury came back with an indictment ten days ago, it was on.’
Local police only learned of the raid on Wednesday night but FBI agents had been massing in the area from Monday onwards.
Last night, a lawyer closely involved with the case warned Maxwell’s conviction on multiple charges of child sex abuse on three victims, one aged just 14, between 1994 and 1997 was ‘no slam dunk.’
‘This is a very tough one to prosecute. The offences took place 26 years ago. Her lawyers will rip apart the victims and their witnesses,’ said the lawyer.
‘They’ve had time to prepare and have vast financial resources. They will be screaming about Covid, they will be screaming that it all happened so long ago, they will claim she was a victim of Epstein too.’
Meanwhile, a source with knowledge of Maxwell’s defence says her team ‘is preparing for war’, adding: ‘They’ve had a year to anticipate this. She has money to put the best legal team in place.
‘We anticipated this day would come. She’s in the fight of her life and not going down quietly. She insists she’s innocent and always has done.’
It is understood that Maxwell, who has always denied any wrongdoing and knowledge of Epstein’s crimes, believes she is protected by the 2008 plea deal in which Epstein admitted two charges of child prostitution in return for a lenient sentence and immunity for others.
‘That deal offered immunity to any potential co-conspirators of Epstein. That deal could be Maxwell’s get-out-of-jail-free card,’ the source added.
Despite having £16 million in the bank and British, French and US passports, The Mail on Sunday has been told that Maxwell’s lawyers strategically told her not to leave the US after Epstein’s suicide.
‘They will argue she had a chance to leave but did not. That will go in her favour as far as making bail,’ said an insider. ‘It’s likely she will have her passports seized and wear an ankle monitor. Her lawyers will also offer round-the-clock security to prove she’s not a flight risk.’
Maxwell last night remained at the Merrimack County Jail in Boscawen, New Hampshire. She is expected to move to New York’s Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn as early as tomorrow, ahead of a court appearance on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The MDC is not the jail where Epstein killed himself but it is equally tough. ‘It’s about ten miles from the Epstein mansion but might as well be another world,’ said a source. ‘Inmates wear orange polyester jumpsuits.’
Maxwell will be held in isolation in an 8ft by 10ft cell and US Attorney General William Barr has ‘personally called’ prosecutors in the Southern District of New York to say: ‘No harm must come to her.’
‘After the debacle with Epstein nothing can happen to her,’ said a source close to the case.
It is understood that US prosecutor Audrey Strauss will consider a plea deal. ‘It depends who Maxwell will give up. We know she was involved with people at the highest levels of government, industry and society.
‘If she has proof which will lead to the conviction of bigger fish then she will be able to plea-bargain her way down,’ said the source.
Ms Strauss last week repeated a request to speak to Prince Andrew. Negotiations with his team continue and a source claimed they have contacted the US Department of Justice twice in the last month to discuss how he could help, but their emails have gone unanswered.
A friend of the Prince said: ‘Why is the Department of Justice throwing the Duke of York under a bus by talking about him at the press conference for the arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell? It’s disgraceful.’
Prince Andrew has repeatedly and vehemently denied claims that he had sex with Virginia Roberts on three occasions, the first in 2001 when she was 17 and trafficked to London by Epstein.
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