What On Earth Is This Conspiracy Theory About Yolanda Hadid and Ghislaine Maxwell?

What On Earth Is This Conspiracy Theory About Yolanda Hadid and Ghislaine Maxwell?
Image:Bryan Bedder/Getty (Getty Images)

Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged co-conspirator, was arrested in New Hampshire last week, and subsequently charged with helping Epstein recruit and sexually abuse girls from 1994 to 1997, as well as perjury. That same day, Dutch journalist Henk Van Ess tweeted a series of screenshots purporting to show Ghislaine Maxwell hiding out near Yolanda Hadid’s Pennsylvania farm last November—which Hadid denies. How on earth did Van Ess arrive at such a claim?

In a series of tweets on July 2, the day Maxwell was arrested, Van Ess shared a series of now-deleted tweets from a lengthy, crowdsourced investigation in which he claimed to have tracked Maxwell to Doylestown, Pennsylvania. (The tweets have since been deleted, but screenshots can be read here and here.) In them, he posted Google Maps screenshots at possible locations where Maxwell allegedly “pinged” local cell towers, like a local Dunkin Donuts. He also retweeted Twitter user @caseyyrae, who claimed to be from Doylestown and pointed out to Van Ess that Yolanda Hadid lives 11 minutes away. Afterward, Van Ess fixated on Hadid, a famous person who he claimed he was unaware of prior to sharing his investigation on Twitter. Although @caseyyrae’s tweet doesn’t provide much context for how Hadid could possibly be connected to Maxwell, the hashtag #victoriassecret seems to imply a tenuous and unsubstantiated link Bella and Gigi Hadid’s modeling careers with Jeffrey Epstein’s involvement with the brand. (He famously used his relationship with former Victoria’s Secret CEO Leslie Wexner to gain access to his victims.)

Questionably, however, this geographic proximity is the only verifiable connection between Yolanda Hadid and Ghislaine Maxwell—besides another ping allegedly showing Maxwell to have been in Beverly Hills, where Hadid does not live—and it is a dubiously thin one at that. Regardless, Van Ess tweeted: “It all makes sense now.” Subsequent tweets referred to the Hadids’ farm as Maxwell’s “hideout,” as both Van Ess and his followers posted pictures from before the home was acquired by Hadid. He also claimed that Maxwell “was friendly” with the Hadid family, but I could not find any publicly available evidence suggesting this, beyond a few Twitter users replying to the original tweet from @caseyyrae. Most galling, however, is a tweet in which Van Ess claims Ghislaine Maxwell “tried to find young models for Epstein” and pointing out that Yolanda Hadid previously hosted a reality competition show called Making a Model.

Van Ess describes himself in his Twitter bio as “obsessed by finding stories in data.” He has previously been published in outlets like Buzzfeed News, and his data investigations seem primarily focused on “crime” reporting. After his tweets began to circulate, Yolanda Hadid responded to Van Ess on Twitter on July 4, claiming he did not reach out to her via DM, and asserting that she “does not know or have ever associated with Ghislane—the first time I have heard about her or any of this was watching the documentary, like the rest of the world, on Netflix.” Van Ess than refuted Hadid’s response, asserting that he publicly tweeted at her multiple times after becoming aware of her, including screenshots of his request. It was here Yolanda’s daughter Gigi joined the fray, despite being very pregnant at the moment, to lecture Van Ess about how little her mom reads Twitter. She’s too busy tending to her crops and riding around on her rich lady horses, Henk!

Of course, it only gets worse from here. Tuesday morning, Van Ess vaguely claimed he was contacted by Hadid’s lawyer. In screenshots of his response, Van Ess refuted accusations that he is “using the name of the well known Hadid family for attention in the wake of the Ghislaine Maxwell arrest and investigation.” He also claimed that tweets about the location of Yolanda’s home were not an invasion of privacy, citing multiple articles in which the Hadids shared identifying details about the farm on social media and in interviews.

Curiously, Van Ess has not laid out any data—although he claims to be a data nerd—on how, or why, Hadid and Maxwell supposedly knew each other at all, let alone well enough that Hadid would harbor an internationally notorious suspect hiding from the FBI. Despite this, Hadid has found herself roped into the narrative of Maxwell’s arrest. I could find no evidence that Hadid knew, or has ever even associated with, Ghislaine Maxwell or Jeffrey Epstein. But a few Twitter accounts, with followings in the mere tens to hundreds, claimed the opposite in replies to tweets by a man who admits that prior to this, he had no idea who Yolanda Hadid is.

Pretty often, I’m lectured by the trolls who haunt my inbox that celebrity reporting isn’t particularly useful. I won’t debate those points, nor will I claim to understand source codes and IP addresses and cell tower triangulations like Henk Van Ess. But in this moment, I’m grateful to this broken brain of mine for harboring each and every inconsequential detail about Yolanda Hadid’s public life. It isn’t as easy as it looks!

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