Sat, 20 April, 2024

Maxwell’s downfall

Posted: February 19th, 2021


© Peter Thompson 2021. Extracted from Cudlipp’s Circus by Peter Thompson, Kindle Edition.

THE turning point in the Maxwell saga came in June, 1991 when I received a phone call from Mark Killick, a BBC producer with a deceptively easy-going style and an impressive track record in investigative journalism. He invited me to take part in “The Max Factor”, a Panorama investigation into Robert Maxwell’s financial affairs. In the final analysis it was the little, comparatively insignificant lies that would lead to Maxwell’s undoing. Mark Killick was the man who found them.

His news antennae had twitched in Maxwell’s direction when he received a press release from Maxwell Communications announcing the sale for £60 million of an Italian subsidiary. The press release stated: “Maxwell Communication Corporation plc (MCC) announces the sale to funds advised by Schroder Venture Advisers of 100% of MCC Italia – consisting of Panini Children’s Album Collection Publishers – for a consideration of approximately £60 million. Completion is planned during November 1990.”

Mark Killick discovered that MCC was lying: there was no such sale, a fact confirmed by the supposed buyer. The more closely he scrutinized Maxwell’s business affairs the more convinced Killick became that the tycoon was papering over the cracks, using the bogus sale of assets or buying his own shares in an attempt to manipulate the market. At the Stock Exchange Killick uncovered a classic piece of deception. The Exchange was informed that Maxwell, his family and associated companies had acquired 15,650,000 shares in MCC. However, a further announcement on 5 September showed the acquisition would take place on or before 30 November at 185p per share. A third announcement in December revealed that the investor was in fact a third party who had bought the shares as a put option [a put option is a contract in which the holder has the right but not the obligation to sell a specified quantity of a security at a specified price within a fixed period of time.] and then sold them back to Maxwell on the November date.

The significance of this manoeuvre was that MCC was due to publish its accounts in October and Stock Exchange rules forbade Maxwell from dealing in MCC shares in the previous two months. For that reason he had arranged for someone else to buy 15 million shares in August – just before the close period – and hold them until November, thus boosting the MCC share price. An MCC employee admitted off the record that, just as Mark suspected, Maxwell was creating a false market through a share support scheme. The reason wasn’t difficult to ascertain: a visit to Companies House showed that Maxwell had mortgaged MCC shares on 5 September in exchange for a loan from the Bank of Nova Scotia. The lower the share price the greater number of shares he would have to pledge as collateral. Mark says that all of these facts were contained in publicly available paperwork at MCC, the Stock Exchange and Companies House. “Nothing I’ve been involved with has depended on secret sources,” he says.

Mark recorded an interview with me about how Maxwell got his hands on a copy of the MGN flotation prospectus to ensure the success of his takeover bid for the Daily Mirror in 1984; how MGN changed after he had taken over as proprietor; how he interfered with editorial freedom; how he compared with Rupert Murdoch; and how he used the laws of libel to suppress “Maxwell: A Portrait of Power”, which I co-wrote with Tony Delano. I also provided the Panorama team with tapes of Maxwell’s conversations during the miners’ strike, the Ethiopian famine fiasco, and his failed attempt to take over the Melbourne Age, as well as a copy of my taped interview with Rupert Murdoch in New York in which he described Maxwell as “a business brigand”.

At the White City television studios Mark introduced me to Nisha Pillai, the tenacious, Indian-born reporter who would front “The Max Factor”.  John Naughton, The Observer’s TV critic, later wrote: “Without doubt the programme of the year, Nisha Pillai’s astonishing film was the exposé which put the bolt into Maxwell’s shoulder by first revealing the extent of his corporate web and its utter dependence on the share price of the two public companies [MGN and MCC]. The film was a textbook example of British journalistic methodology, for it was based from the outset on a particular hypothesis (that Maxwell was a crook) and devoted all its resources to proving that proposition.

As a graduate in analytical economics at the LSE and a former merchant banker, Nisha had good contacts in the City. Aware of Maxwell’s underhand methods, she took precautions against electronic bugging and other forms of intrusion. “We completely changed our methods of working,” she says. “I was continually changing our computer codes on all our files, we locked everything obsessively, I never used my home telephone for business calls, I never used the phone on my desk – I always used neighbouring ones,” she says. “I was just trying to cover our tracks and, by and large, it must have worked because he simply didn’t know what was in the programme. We caught him napping.”
Mark Killick had the numbers checked by KPMG, a firm of accountants specialising in audit, tax and advisory services, and the edited programme was legalled by a leading Queen’s Counsel. The final decision to transmit the programme rested with John Birt, the deputy director-general. It was a foregone conclusion that Maxwell would sue for libel. “Will we win?” Birt asked the barrister. “I think it’s a true bill,” he replied. To everyone’s immense relief, Birt gave the go-ahead.

In a letter to Maxwell, Nisha Pillai broadly outlined the results of her research and asked for an interview. Fearing the disclosure of his massive debts and the consequent plundering of his companies’ pension funds, Maxwell went ballistic. Oscar Beuselinck, the former Private Eye lawyer who had jumped ship and was now Maxwell’s in-house lawyer, instructed his new libel specialist, George Carman QC, to obtain an injunction to prevent the broadcast going out. When that move failed, Maxwell wrote to Mark Thompson, the editor of Panorama, appealing for fairness and threatening punitive legal action for any perceived libels. He offered to grant an interview to Nisha Pillai but then withdrew the offer after exchanging harsh words with her.

Maxwell’s legal barrage, however, succeeded in having the programme postponed while the BBC’s legal team re-assessed the risk. The extent of the Corporation’s problem can be gauged from the fact that the lawyers estimated that if Maxwell sued the BBC and won his case it could cost as much as £70 million. “We knew we were putting the White City site on the line,” Mark Killick says. “We had to get it right.”

New York was blisteringly hot but Maxwell was suffering from a cold he could not shake off. Complaining that the air-conditioning at the Waldorf Towers was too chilly, he moved to the Helmsley Palace. His suite was on three floors, with living room, dining room, kitchen and office on the first floor and bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, a solarium and sundeck on upper floors. The solarium was on the third floor and could be reached only by a private lift. “RM delighted in ushering guests up there and then taking the elevator down, effectively trapping them,” his personal assistant Carolyn Hinsey says. “Sometimes they would call down to the office and say, ‘We’re still up here…’ We would reply, ‘Oh yes, Mr Maxwell will be right up.’ Once, he was particularly incensed with a guest and kept him baking in the solarium for four hours.”

Maxwell’s appetite for food was as gargantuan as ever: breakfast would be two or three bowls of cereal, a pot of coffee and a whole watermelon; for lunch, chicken soup, smoked salmon, matzo biscuits, pickled cucumbers, cheese, chocolate; dinner: $200-worth of Chinese food from Mr Fu, or three hamburgers with buckets of chips. His sole relaxation in the evening was watching videos but they had to be brand new, so Josef would be dispatched to purchase his favourite Clint Eastwood movies and anything else he felt like watching. But at this crucial stage of his life, with his treasuries running on empty, his formerly indomitable constitution had let him down. “His health was so bad that we thought he had pneumonia,” Carolyn Hinsey told me. He was always freezing cold, he had terrible circulation and he was coughing so much he couldn’t sleep. He was also drinking Dom Perignon throughout the day and at night he would have Chivas Regal and a couple of beers.

In the mornings the smell of cologne could not cover up the stench of alcohol seeping through his pores. People started to notice. To cover up the fault-lines in his haggard face he retired to his bathroom several times a day to patch up his PanCake make-up. Josef had stocked the medicine cabinet with vast quantities of paracetamol and Night Nurse. Maxwell was downing the stuff by the bottle. He also took food into the bathroom, hiding the dirty plates in cupboards. Instead of lavatory paper, he used cotton hand towels which were left on the floor. In his luxurious suite, Maxwell was living like a derelict.

Over the next few weeks Maxwell made several day-trips from New York to London in his Gulfstream IV. Returning to U.S. airspace late at night, he chose to land at Westchester airport where a “friendly” customs officer would wave him and his entourage through. “It wasn’t so much that he was smuggling anything in,” says my source. “He was just bringing in food he wasn’t supposed to – delicacies they didn’t sell here.” This was typical Maxwell: the strict quarantine laws forbidding the importation of foodstuffs into the United States did not apply to him.

When he turned up at a reception in France on 24 August, his wife Betty was stunned by the deterioration in his health. “All of a sudden, he looked very old,” she recalls. “He was gasping for air and sweating profusely.” Maxwell’s bronchial activity had reached alarming proportions. Back in New York, Eric Sheinberg of Goldman Sachs persuaded him to seek medical help. Despite Maxwell’s aversion to the medical profession – “I don’t use doctors; never go to them” – he made an appointment to see a radiologist on Fifth Avenue and had several tests, including a chest X-ray and a blood test.

“Well, it’s not pneumonia,” he said on returning to the Daily News Building, but he did not elaborate. The last thing he wanted the world to know was that he was seriously ill. The tests revealed that he was suffering from pulmonary edema, the main symptoms of which are difficulty in breathing, coughing up blood, excessive sweating, anxiety and a pallid complexion. He had also developed cirrhosis, the liver disease caused by heavy drinking and obesity. “I have been blessed with a powerful constitution,” he had boasted to me back in 1984. “I will take a lot of stopping.” But now he could no longer deny, at least to himself, that his days were numbered.

“The Max Factor” was scheduled for screening on Monday, 23 September. Maxwell launched a pre-emptive strike in the previous day’s Sunday Mirror with an astonishing attack on the “jackals” of the BBC. The piece was signed by “Robert Maxwell, Publisher”, and was so badly written that he may well have written it himself. His fury wasn’t directed at the BBC alone: it was also aimed at Tony Boram, a former MGN director who had created the Association of Mirror Pensioners to inquire into why there had been no increase in individual pensions for several years from an obviously rich fund. Boram had recently voiced his concerns to the Daily Mail that only one of the pension fund’s twenty investments was in a leading British company, while 40 per cent were in foreign companies or in MCC and the Mirror Group. On the same page as the anti-BBC editorial, the Sunday Mirror ran a news story attacking the “small group of disgruntled pensioners” who had the temerity to question the management of the MGN fund.

And then, after what seemed an eternity, the familiar theme music filled my living room and the Panorama logo flashed on to the screen. In the Mirror Building, reporters and sub-editors crowded around to watch what was billed as “A special investigation by Nisha Pillai into the working practices of media tycoon Robert Maxwell”. In her opening salvo to camera, Nisha asserted that the investigation “raises grave questions about the way Mr Maxwell sometimes does business”. His false claims about profits and debts had “distorted the market in MCC shares”. She also revealed that as well as Liechtenstein, he had set up offshore trusts in Gibraltar, and she explained the convoluted and highly suspicious links between his various private concerns and the publicly quoted companies, MCC and MGN.

Nisha drew attention to the flotation of MGN and noted, “Public share offers should be conducted on a ‘fair and open’ basis, says the Stock Exchange rule book. Clearly the Mirror share prospectus wasn’t as open as it could have been.” She highlighted the sales that had been announced by Maxwell Communications but had not taken place; the company’s high level of debt; and the erosion of its operating profits by the bill for interest payments. And she revealed that Maxwell had been up to his old tricks of using transactions between the Family Interests and Maxwell Communications to bolster MCC’s share price.

The programme then made a surprise disclosure: it revealed that Maxwell had cheated Mirror readers of a £1 million prize in a Spot-the-Ball competition. Viewers who might have found Nisha Pillai’s painstaking financial analysis over their heads had no difficulty following this message: “It was Mr Maxwell himself who decided to run a dishonest game and cheat his readers.” Headlines in the British press such as “MAXWELL TRICKED MIRROR READERS OUT OF £1M” did enormous damage to the paper’s reputation.

Maxwell was in New York. He listened to the programme over the telephone in his suite at the Helmsley and had a transcript faxed to him. Despite all the new allegations, Maxwell claimed in a statement that “The Max Factor” was nothing but “a rehash of old smears that have been disproved”. He kept his London lawyers up all night dictating his requirements. Later that day Oscar Beuselinck issued writs against Panorama’s editor, director and reporter for libel and malicious falsehood. But the BBC’s legal experts had done a good job. There were justified grounds for questioning the soundness of Maxwell’s public companies and the facts as presented in the programme could not be disputed.

“Devastating,” opined one City stockbroker. One bank chairman in the City who had ordered his staff to record the programme sent a copy to every director; The Economist started asking questions; The Independent was served with another injunction. But once again the storm blew over and Maxwell carried on as usual. Apparently unconcerned, he chaired a conference on race relations with Mario Cuomo, Governor of New York, and the New York Mayor, David Dinkins. He also made arrangements to print The European in the United States. I didn’t know then that he was seriously ill; he seemed as indestructible as ever.

Meanwhile, Maxwell’s seven years of chronic mismanagement had brought MGN to breaking point. Ernie Burrington, who had risen from editor of the People to deputy chairman of MGN, was now joint managing director with Vic Horwood. The two MDs and finance director Laurie Guest were increasingly worried about cash being moved out of the Mirror Group treasury, ostensibly into money-making investments of their boss’s choosing.

In September and October two huge chunks of company cash – £47 million and £50 million – disappeared. Maxwell had diverted the £47 million to the Daily News to cover its losses but he wasn’t about to tell Laurie Guest that. The £50 million, supposedly invested in gilts, was used to pay pressing debts. Guest was so concerned about the ramshackle state of the accounts that he confronted Maxwell during one of his flying visits to London and demanded that the money be returned. On 15 October he wrote a note to himself:

“I am now convinced that MGN resources have been used to support other parts of the group, but I have no proof. I think I have frightened the chairman but my main concern must be to get the money back. I think I am in a situation that nothing more will flow out although I don’t have the mechanism to stop it.”

That same day Maxwell spent an hour discussing his defamation action against Panorama with Oscar Beuselinck and George Carman. “We’ll get the bastards,” he told Carman. “I know you’ll destroy them for me.” “Robert and George” – it was first names from the beginning – made an odd couple, one tall and fat, the other short and insignificant, but they had many qualities in common. Both were bullies with a lethal charm, a lack of conscience and a compulsion to dominate or humiliate other people. They also shared a love of drinking and gambling, though Robert’s table manners would have appalled the fastidious George.

But despite his faith in Carman’s interrogatory powers, Maxwell’s legal moves against the BBC came to nothing, just as his financial woes grew immeasurably worse. Only his bluster was keeping creditors at bay. Bankers were buttered up with a combination of champagne diplomacy and barefaced lying. “Liechtenstein” was presented as the source of untold wealth when in fact the trusts contained nothing but shares in MCC and MGN whose value was dwindling by the day. When promised repayments failed to be turn up, human error in the “back room” of MCC was blamed.

But the excuses were wearing thin; stress fractures were breaking out all over the imperial structure. There was nothing Maxwell’s lawyers or his editors could do to save their paymaster. It was only a matter of time before the systematic looting of company bank accounts and pension funds would be exposed to the wider world. Any senior executive who asked awkward questions was shown the door, usually with a large payoff to ensure silence.

On 17 October, the Scitex shares owned by Robert Maxwell Group (RGM) and the Common Investment Fund were sold for £139 million (an astonishing profit of more than £100 million). The proceeds were paid to National Westminster who used them to discharge RMG’s overdraft and to make a payment of £30 million towards other debts. Goldman Sachs knew that Maxwell treasured these shares and correctly concluded that apart from his shares in MGN and MCC the cupboard was bare.

On 21 October Laurie Guest met Maxwell in his office at Maxwell House in the presence of Burrington and Horwood. Guest plunged in. Repayments to the MGN treasury had not been made, shareholders’ cash was being used speculatively and the flow of information about these deals was totally inadequate. He also questioned Maxwell’s use of pension fund money and the investment return it appeared to be yielding. Regarding the missing £47 million, Guest said he was so worried about it, he was unable to sleep. “You are losing sleep and that’s not right,” Maxwell said soothingly. “You will receive everything. Don’t worry.” Maxwell promised to meet Guest and Burrington again on 1 November. In his notes Guest wrote:

“The chairman stated there should be no problems and that I should obtain all information from Michael Stoney [one of Maxwell’s obliging accountants]. My removal would be a disaster to the group and not in the interest of anybody.”

At a meeting in New York on 22 October Maxwell paid the remaining balance outstanding on MCC shares purchased in July and August, though he was rapidly losing his grip on the situation. At this crucial moment his health – and his luck – had deserted him. His heart, his liver and his lungs were diseased, his teeth were rotting in his head and he was having trouble breathing, He was also depressed, short-tempered and liable to fall asleep during meetings. While New Yorkers were taking in advertisements for the American edition of The European that showed Maxwell under the legend “New York’s Favourite European”, two other newspapers were hinting at the impending meltdown of his empire. The Independent calculated that the Family Interests had debts amounting to £1 billion, while MCC’s indebtedness exceeded its assets by almost £400 million. A few days later, on Saturday 26 October, the New York Times ran this damaging paragraph:
Mr Maxwell’s efforts to sell parts of his worldwide empire to reduce his overall $3 billion debt have prompted speculation that the empire might collapse, taking the Daily News with it.

The effect on Maxwell was shattering. Later that day Carolyn Hinsey saw him in his suite at the Helmsley. “His condition was worse by far than I had ever seen,” she said. “All day he screamed at me, ‘Get the dickhead from the Times, the dickhead from my press office’. Toward the end of the day, he screamed at me to find the editor of the Sunday Mirror, Bridget Rowe, who was on deadline and away from her desk. I told him I would keep trying and he picked up the phone and threw it across the room at my head, yelling, “You are a fucking idiot; you can’t do anything”.’ Carolyn deftly caught the phone. ‘Do you feel better now?’ she asked.

Maxwell stormed upstairs to his bedroom and ordered Josef to bring up a bottle of Chivas Regal, ice and tonic water. He was consumed with anger and self-pity. He was alone now. The adulation, the power counted for nothing. Word of his imminent financial demise was being faxed to bankers, lawyers, politicians and competitors around the world. “A few hours later he called on the intercom and said I could knock off,” Carolyn said. “I never saw him again.”

Maxwell’s fury was easy to understand. At a time when Gorbachev, Kissinger, Shamir and John Major were taking his calls, when he had eclipsed Rupert Murdoch as an international figure, when dozens of media outlets clamoured for his views, when all the trinkets of fame were his for the taking, his empire was about to go belly up. Knowing he would be exposed as a liar, a cheat and a thief, he cut himself off from members of his family. He was dismissive of Betty and had stopped taking calls from Isobel and Christine; Ghislaine was having trouble getting through but he was still communicating with Kevin and Ian about the problems at MCC.

New York saw the last of its “Favourite European” on Monday, 28 October when the Gulfstream took off for London. He left behind a trail of unpaid bills and broken promises. Minneapolis would never see the $50 million he had pledged to the Gorbachev Maxwell Institute, and the Polytechnic of New York is still awaiting a philanthropic gift of $10 million. According to his closest editorial allies, there was no sign of the impending doom. On Tuesday, 29 October Maxwell had lunch with his politburo at Holborn Circus. Joe Haines says Maxwell was relaxed and had enjoyed his food. Later, Maxwell attended a short MGN board meeting, and in the evening spoke to one of his executives and arranged to see him again the following week.

On Wednesday, 30 October, Goldman Sachs informed Maxwell that it would sell MCC shares to retrieve loans of $35 million and £25 million if no repayment was made. No money was forthcoming and the bank began unloading 2.2 million shares the following day. At the same time Citibank was demanding $45 million for a foreign currency deal on 18 October; Swiss Bank had compiled a dossier on an unpaid debt of £55.7 million that would be given to the Fraud Squad on 5 November; and the Financial Times had worked out that the Family Interests had debts of £2.2 billion. The only people who seemed completely unaware of Maxwell’s predicament were his editorial allies at Holborn Circus.

At 9.30 a.m. on Thursday, 31 October – the day of the Goldman share sale – Maxwell flew out of Luton in the Gulfstream for a rendezvous with the Lady Ghislaine. He’d told his secretary that he was going on a cruise to get rid of his persistent cold but instructed her not to disclose his whereabouts to anybody. Unusually, none of his aides accompanied him, not even his valet or his butler. By a nice touch of irony, the yacht was moored at Gibraltar, so recently paired with Liechtenstein as the home of those secretive trusts. During the flight Maxwell was said to be relaxed and in a good mood. The skipper of the Lady Ghislaine, Captain Gus Rankin, met him at the airport and after discussing the options it was decided to sail to Madeira, the Portuguese island 600 miles away in the Atlantic.

The voyage took the rest of Thursday and all of Friday. Maxwell spent most of the daylight hours in his favourite spot on the for’ard sundeck at the top of the yacht’s superstructure. Apparently at ease, he read, played music on his quadrophonic sound system and sunbathed. Back in the Mirror Building his disappearance generated a rumour: “He’s done a runner.”

On Saturday, 2 November, Maxwell strolled around Funchal, capital of Madeira, went for a swim despite his cold, and visited the local casino. The crew of Lady Ghislaine later recalled that he made fewer phone calls than usual and was in an uncharacteristically good mood, even complimenting them on their work. Next day, Maxwell ordered Gus Rankin to sail to Tenerife, 250 miles distant in the Canaries. That night he dined on board and then retired to his cabin where he made several phone calls, all of which were monitored by GCHQ’s listening post at Cheltenham. Relevant Sigint (signals intelligence) was passed to the Joint Intelligence Committee and prepared as briefing notes for Ministers (although the Prime Minister, John Major, later denied in the Commons that he had any prior knowledge of Maxwell’s financial difficulties).

At 10.25 a.m. on Monday, 4 November, Lady Ghislaine berthed at Dársena Pesquera, near the Tenerife capital of Santa Cruz. If Maxwell was hoping for another quiet day in the sun, he was to be disappointed. In the space of a few hours Goldman Sachs ignored a request not to sell its 10 per cent stake in MGN, and Eddie George, deputy governor of the Bank of England, was informed about the sale; Citibank informed Maxwell that it was about to sell its collateral for the failed foreign exchange deal; and, in the evening, Lehman Brothers served “recall notices” forcing him to repay $80 million within twenty-four hours. Maxwell didn’t have the money to solve any of these problems; he was out of the game.

Maxwell had intended to return to London to make the keynote speech at an Anglo-Israeli Association dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel that evening. He suddenly changed his mind. Ian was asked to stand in for him, while Gus Rankin was instructed to spend the night cruising to Los Cristianos in the south of the island.

Before setting sail, Maxwell took a taxi to the Grand Hotel Mencey in Santa Cruz, ate a meal of hake with clams in a parsley and mushroom sauce, drank a couple of beers and, despite his bronchial condition, smoked a Havana cigar. He returned to the yacht at 9.45 p.m., tipping the taxi driver 1000 pesetas. Fifteen minutes later Gus Rankin cast off. He had plotted an easterly course that would take the yacht towards Gran Canaria and then swing south to its destination. The Gulfstream would be waiting there to fly Maxwell back to London.

Lord Northcliffe ended his life a pitiful lunatic believing that his dressing gown was trying to assassinate him. Maxwell’s last days were also haunted by paranoid fears of assassination. Before leaving New York he’d told Julian Kroll, the private detective whose organisation had investigated him in 1987, “There’s a serious threat to my life.” At the Labour Party conference in Brighton earlier that month, he’d informed Alastair Campbell, “People are out to get me.” But whereas Northcliffe was confined to a shed on a neighbour’s roof in Carlton House Gardens, Maxwell was surrounded by the obscene luxury of his £12 million floating gin palace.

That evening Maxwell received a fax of the front page of the following day’s Daily Mirror and spoke to the editor, Richard Stott, on the phone. “He seemed okay,” Stott recalled. “He was not depressed.” At 11.15pm Maxwell received a phone call from Ian, who reported on the success of his speech at the Grosvenor House. Ian says his father was in a good mood; when Ian ended the call with “See you tomorrow then” Maxwell had replied, “You bet.’”

But Maxwell wasn’t going anywhere. At 4.10a.m. on Tuesday, 5 November. 1991 one of the crew, Graham Leonard, saw him on the aft lower deck staring at the lights of Gran Canaria. The night was hot, the sea calm. When Maxwell returned to his cabin he phoned the bridge and asked for the air-conditioning to be switched on. He knew then that his empire was about to implode, that he would be convicted of fraud and probably spend the rest of his life in Wormwood Scrubs. The thought of Rupert Murdoch hearing of his downfall was more than he could bear. At 4.45a.m. he rang the bridge again and asked for the air-con to be switched off. It was his final instruction.

About half an hour later he went back on deck after locking his cabin door. Tearing off his nightgown, he threw it over the side. He shuffled to the thick wire railing and lowered himself over the side. One can imagine that for a moment the mask slipped and, stripped of all his flamboyance, he looked entirely vulnerable. For what seemed an eternity he clung on, tearing the muscles in his left shoulder from the effort. On the enclosed bridge the crew didn’t hear the splash over the rhythmic throb of the engines.

Maxwell landed on his back. At the moment of impact all the air was driven out of his one remaining lung and the shock of the cold water closed his larynx reflexively. Struggling for breath, his heartbeat and blood pressure soared dangerously, triggering a heart attack. As the Lady Ghislaine disappeared silently into the night, Ian Robert Maxwell, either through suffocation or cardiac arrest, ceased to exist. The astonishing thing wasn’t that he was dead, but that he had lived so long.


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