World

Epstein victim says she attempted to escape his private ‘love’ island after months of abuse

After months of hell, there was suddenly hope. Sarah Ransome saw an unattended quad bike and raced off to a remote corner of the 70-acre Caribbean island. She planned to swim from the private island of Little St James to St Thomas island.

“I had been raped three times that day,” she said. “A shark would have been my best friend at that point. I didn’t even think about it.”

She didn’t get far. Her host, Jeffrey Epstein, had installed cameras all over the island, she said. Within minutes a team had appeared in pursuit.

In 2017, Ms Ransome filed a lawsuit against Mr Epstein, his confidante Ghislaine Maxwell, and three others, claiming that for seven months she had been trafficked for sex. Ms Maxwell denies the allegations.

The case was eventually settled out of court, but to encourage others to come forward Ms Ransome is telling her story in the wake of Epstein’s suicide — highlighting how he would prey on very young women and use them to expand his global network. She even thinks he cynically changed his tactics to target “older” women after finding himself under investigation.

It began in Johannesburg, where Ms Ransome was born to British parents. Her mother was the daughter of Lord Gordon Macpherson, the second baron of Drumochter; her father, to whom she remains close, left at an early age and moved to Cape Town. When she was 14 she says she was raped by a wealthy schoolmate of her brother’s. South African police dropped the case. It was her first taste of being let down by the authorities.


Little St. James Island, one of the properties of financier Jeffrey Epstein, is seen in an aerial view near Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands July 21, 2019.

REUTERS/Marco Bello

She left for the Scottish Highlands to move in with her aunt and uncle. She became head girl at Grantown Grammar and then a student at university in Edinburgh, but dropped out.

At 22 and after a tumultuous relationship, she left for a New York fashion school. Two weeks later she was approached by a girl at a nightclub. “She found out everything about me very quickly,” she said. “I was so broken; I was an open book. It was like: ‘There’s this amazing guy, a philanthropist, this wealthy guy, he’s amazing, he’s helped me so much, he’s helped me achieve my dreams, he can help you.’

A “charming, charismatic” Epstein then took her out. Two days later the girl called to say he really liked her and wanted to fly her to his Caribbean island by private plane. Alone in New York, she accepted.

She said: “From the time I got on the island, that was when the abuse began. They called me in for ‘massages’,” she said, making quotation marks in the air. “I don’t think people quite believe that it was literally… there were some days I was raped three times a day. And then he would rape others.” He would also “lend” her and other girls to his friends.

She said she met Ms Maxwell on the first visit to the island. The pair “were like brother and sister”, she said.

Epstein “preyed on girls who had nothing”, she said, “They were pretty much homeless — I was pretty much homeless. I had just come from an abusive relationship in Edinburgh. I had no money. He promised me a visa, and entrance to the Fashion Institute. He held all the power.”

By now Ms Ransome lived in an Upper East Side apartment building owned by Epstein. She had no idea he had other girls also housed there.


Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell at Cipriani Wall Street on March 15, 2005 in New York City.

oe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Epstein controlled every aspect of their lives, Ms Ransome said – their homes, their food, their medical care, their physical appearances.

Although willowy and 5ft 9in, she was told to starve herself down to eight stone. “They would put plates of food down in front of me, and then they would be snatched away.”

In 2007 Ms Ransome was sent to South Africa to “look for” a personal assistant for Epstein — he insisted she must be 18 and from a model agency.

She refused, knowing the girl’s fate. Soon after that she fled, not returning to New York until last month to address the court in a hearing to formally close Epstein’s case.

The day Epstein was arrested was without question the best day of my life. Without question

He died in a suspected suicide on Aug 10, although Ms Ransome believes he was murdered on behalf of powerful people who needed to silence him.

“The day Epstein was arrested was without question the best day of my life. Without question,” she said.

Miss Maxwell’s lawyers, in a motion to dismiss the 2017 suit, have said: “Ms Ransome may have come to regret her consensual relationship with Mr Epstein but that does not mean she was the victim of unlawful sex trafficking or that Ms Maxwell is somehow liable.”

Ms Ransome is determined that the people around Epstein should be made to reveal what they knew. “I was asked to recruit in South Africa,” she said. “Who else was asked? What about Paris? You think there are no 15-year-olds in Paris who have been abused?”

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