Was Ghislaine Maxwell's father Robert murdered? 30 years after media mogul's death questions remain unanswered
Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend and confidante of dead billionaire and convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, who was arrested at the beginning of this month after being accused of procuring underage girls for Epstein is a shady character. But not shadier than her father and late media proprietor, Robert Maxwell. Sr Maxwell was born into poverty in Czechoslovakia in 1923. From there, the journey of his life saw him rise from a refugee to a decorated war hero, a businessman, a Labour MP, and later a media mogul. He amassed private jets, helicopters and Rolls-Royces en route.
Robert was one of seven children of Jewish parents, born Ján Ludvík Hoch in the Czechoslovakian mountain village of Slatinské Doly, which presently is part of Ukraine and known as Solotvyno. He famously claimed not to own a pair of shoes till the age of seven. He fled to France as a teenager, losing most of his extended family in the Holocaust. After joining the Czechoslovak army, he was evacuated to Britain and later joined the British army under the name Ivan du Maurier. He won the Military Cross for heroism on the Dutch-German border.
He spent six years in the British Parliament, serving as a Labour MP from 1964 to 1970. Later he developed his publishing empire over decades that included titles such as the New York Daily News and Mirror Group Newspapers. His other business ventures included Oxford United and Derby County football clubs. At the peak of his career, his net worth was an estimated $1.9 billion.
Robert always maintained a friendly relationship with Israel, heavily investing in publishing, pharmaceutical, and computer firms in the country. His closeness with the country led many to accuse him of being an Israeli spy. He met the allegations with denials and legal threats. The rumors of him being a suspected spy surfaced against after his death when he was accorded something akin to a state funeral in Israel, attended by the prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, and the president, Chaim Herzog, and buried in Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives.
His death remains a mystery even today, despite an inquest stating the cause of death as heart attack and accidental drowning. At the age of 68, Robert fell to his death from his £15 million ($18 million) yacht, Lady Ghislaine, off the Canary Islands, on November 5, 1991. “He was a man who could not face the ignominy of jail, of being shown to be a liar and a thief. And he very much knew that was coming,” Roy Greenslade, a former editor of one of Maxwell’s newspapers, the Daily Mirror, told the Guardian. “So I am a suicide theorist. I believe Maxwell threw himself off.”
But Ken Lennox, then the Mirror’s senior photographer, was convinced it was an accident. “He used to get up at night and pee over the stern of the ship. Everybody knew this. And he weighed about 22 stone at this time. The railings were wire. So I think he lost his balance, because he was very top-heavy,” Lennox said. “He was Teflon man. I don’t think he committed suicide.”
Lennox was one of the first ones who saw Robert's naked corpse. "And there was Maxwell. Completely naked, lying on top of the air-sea rescue officers’ mess table with a sheet underneath him. And, I know it sounds crazy, but he looked good. His hair still slicked back, his complexion; he looked as if he was still alive," he said. Robert's body was unmarked, Apart from a graze to his left shoulder, Lennox said after being called to identify his body.
His untimely death sent shockwaves through the nation and soon the conspiracy theories started. "People were phoning me up with all the conspiracy theories. ‘Do you think Maxwell was knocked off? Did you see any puncture marks behind his ears?" Lennox said. One of the most popular conspiracy theories was that the Mossad killed him because Israel refused to give him a loan and he threatened to retaliate.
All hell broke loose after his death when the world learned that he had been robbing his employees’ pension funds to keep his crumbling empire alive. It was revealed that he had completely drained his employee pension funds to the tune of at least $900 million months prior to his death. The day before he died, he missed a meeting with the Bank of England over his defaulting on more than a $62 million loan. Soon headlines such as 'The Man Who Saved the Mirror' were replaced by 'Maxwell: The Robber.'
“Here was a man, totally found out, not able to escape and not able to bluster. And he would have been in the dock. But he might have taken some very interesting people down with him. In that respect, it’s shades of Epstein," Greenslade said.
Robert's publishing empire collapsed in the aftermath of his death as his sons, Ian and Kevin Maxwell, unsuccessfully tried to save the company. The business mogul's empire filed for bankruptcy in 1992. Four years later, Ian and Kevin were indicted on fraud charges related to their roles in their father’s company. They were later acquitted.