After months of torture, suddenly there was a sliver of hope. Sarah Ransome saw the unattended quad bike, and jumped on it. She raced off, heading to a remote corner of the 70-acre Caribbean island. A strong swimmer, she planned to swim the several miles from the private island of Little St James back to the island of St Thomas.
“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 – it was just, get me away.”
She didn’t get very far.
Her host, Jeffrey Epstein, had installed video cameras all over the island, she said. Within minutes of her setting out a team had appeared to try and persuade her to return to the house.
She sought out New York-based lawyers David Boies and Sigrid McCawley and in 2017, Miss Ransome filed a lawsuit against Epstein, his confidante Ghislaine Maxwell, and three alleged assistants, claiming she was trafficked for sex over the course of seven months. Ms Maxwell denied the allegations and applied for a Motion to Dismiss the Claim.
The case was eventually settled out of court, but Miss Ransome is telling her full story for the first time in the wake of Epstein’s suicide to encourage other young women to come forward.
Her story highlights how Epstein would prey on vulnerable women, using them to expand his network around the world, and how she believes he cynically changed his tactics to target “older” women after he found himself under federal investigation.
The sad sequence of events that led Miss Ransome to Epstein’s door began in Johannesburg, where she 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. The South African police dropped the case, the first time she was let down by the authorities, and the first time she attempted suicide.