The woman whose testimony dominates the Epstein files

Johanna Sjoberg
Johanna Sjoberg has testified that she was recruited by Ghislaine Maxwell for sex acts with Jeffrey Epstein - Splash
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Johanna Sjoberg has long been known as one of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged victims, and her claims that Prince Andrew fondled her breast sent shockwaves through Buckingham Palace when they emerged in a Sunday newspaper interview.

But it was her testimony in unsealed documents on Wednesday night that offered a fresh glimpse into the late financier’s network of rich and powerful friends.

From Donald Trump to Bill Clinton, Ms Sjoberg’s testimony revealed how Epstein would name-drop prominent figures in his orbit as he took her on trips from Florida to New York.

According to one document, Ms Sjoberg claimed Michael Jackson visited Epstein’s Palm Beach home. Not all of those named are accused of wrongdoing.

However, the unsealing of the filings has revived one of the most bizarre claims, involving Prince Andrew and a puppet.

In a witness statement, Ms Sjoberg, now 42, alleged that she sat on a sofa with the Duke, his accuser Virginia Giuffre and a Spitting Image puppet of him given to him by convicted sex offender Ghislaine Maxwell.

“I sat on Andrew’s lap, and I believe on my own volition, and they took the puppet’s hands and put it on Virginia’s breast, and so Andrew put his on mine,” she claimed.

Ms Sjoberg said the alleged incident took place at Epstein’s Manhattan mansion around Easter 2001, adding it was in a “joking manner”. She described the Duke as “charming” but had not recognised him until she saw a tag on the puppet. “Then it clicked. I’m like, that’s who it is,” she said.

Johanna Sjoberg
Johanna Sjoberg said she was a 'hard up and foolish' young student when she fell into Epstein’s orbit

Prince Andrew has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. In her own deposition, Maxwell denied giving the Duke a Spitting Image puppet.

She said: “I never gave him a gift of a puppet. I am not aware of any small handheld puppet that was there. There was a puppet – not a puppet – there was a... I don’t know how would you describe it, really. A caricature of that was in Jeffrey’s home.”

Asked if she had used the “caricature” to put its hand on someone’s breast, Maxwell said: “I don’t recollect. I recollect the puppet, but I don’t recollect anything around the puppet.”

Ms Sjoberg has said she was approached by Maxwell early in 2001 when she was a student at Palm Beach Atlantic College in Florida, ostensibly about a job as a home help. In fact, she testified, she was recruited for sex acts with Epstein and reprimanded when she didn’t cause him to “orgasm”.

Ms Sjoberg’s testimony was given in 2015 for a defamation case brought by Ms Giuffre against Maxwell. It appeared to support Ms Giuffre’s accounts after she made claims against Maxwell, Epstein and the Duke of York.

The lawsuit was settled in 2016, but it was not until December last year that a judge ruled that many of the documents related to the suit should be unsealed.

After the full scale of Epstein’s abuse of young girls came to light, Ms Sjoberg said she realised just how much she had been preyed on. “I was groomed for it,” she told the Mail on Sunday in a 2007 interview.

Ms Sjoberg, from a church-going family in Maine, said she was a “hard up and foolish” young student, studying psychology with hopes of becoming a family therapist, when she fell into Epstein’s orbit.

It was Epstein who paid her tuition fees, helped her get on the property ladder and paid for her to train as a hairdresser. A “pact with the devil”, in her words.

She has remained in the well-heeled town of Palm Beach, where she owns an “upscale” hair salon, according to her social media presence.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our US-exclusive offer.