He was born in 1923 as Jan Ludwik Hoch,a Germanic-sounding name,yet Jan,or Robert as we may call him,grew up in a dirt-poor Jewish family in Czechoslovakia,at a time when the stigma of being Jewish was real and dangerous.Whether Robert had a premonition of what was to come,he joined the Czech partisans on the outbreak of war in 1939,concealed in the Carpathian Forest,then escaped to England before the fall of France,and joined the British army.One might say that these years were his finest hour,fighting bravely in Normandy,promoted to the rank of sergeant and receiving the Military Cross from Montgomery himself.It would be with cataclysmic shock that he received the news that both his parents and four brothers and sisters had either been shot by the Germans or exterminated at Auschwitz,the victims of the Summer 1944 Eichmann round-up,when in the space of six weeks 440,000 Jews were deported from Budapest to their deaths.He was later to say that the large family he created was his way of replacing in part the family he lost in the Holocaust. In 1945 he found himself working for the Allies in the by now divided Berlin as the role of press censor,the West's thoughts and efforts centred around controlling Soviet expansionism and influence,rather than tracking down former war criminals.It was in this uninitiated environment that Robert worked,eventually teaming up with an expert in the field,Paul Rosbaud,to print scientific journals,in what was to become Pergamon Press.With his contacts made at British Intelligence and his knowledge of Eastern Europe he negotiated an arms deal with the pre-Communist Czechoslovakia and the newly-emerging state of Israel,a deal which forty years later Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir would allude to at his funeral oration. Robert's new company thrived and he became a wealthy man.Whether he felt a victim of Britain's class culture and snobbishness one can only surmise,but his political beliefs led him the join the Labour Party,and he became MP for a Buckinghamshire constituency.However in 1969 there was some controversy as to a subsidiary company,which was claimed by the Department of Trade and Industry to have been overvalued when sold,and Maxwell was labelled by Prime Minister Harold Wilson as "the bouncing Czech". This must have reinforced Maxwell's belief of the Establishment conspiracy against him,alluding not only to his dishonesty in financial matters but also to his humble Eastern European origin. In the furore which followed he lost his seat at the 1970 General Election. In the 1980s he found himself in fierce competition with the Murdoch group News International.Robert took the battle personally to Rupert,whom he must have scorned as a man born with a silver spoon in his mouth.Robert dabbled in the American market,buying Macmillan for $2.6 billion at the height of the boom.As the world tipped into recession Maxwell found his empire slowly slipping away.He took to shoring up the share price in his companies by plundering his employees' pension funds,fraudulently obtained by the ledger figures written in pencil,which he would alter at night whilst alone in the office. Maxwell knew that the vultures were circling.On October 31 1991 he ordered Gus Rankin,the captain of the Lady Ghislaine to sail to Madeira,then a change of mind and they were to head for the Canaries.Rankin smelt a rat; it was such short notice,he was travelling alone whereas it was customary for him to have his personal butler and private secretary on board,he didn't seem bothered that the yacht would not be well-stocked with food,neither did he seem to have a cold,the excuse he gave for taking a few days cruising to recuperate.He was not busying himself with any paperwork,indeed a maid on board asked if she could tidy some of his papers strewn across the floor of his bedroom,but Maxwell just kicked them under the table,as if to say he wouldn't be needing them again,and all was lost.The captain was told to "cruise all night" because it would help him sleep;in effect Maxwell was buying time as he didn't want his body discovered too soon.He had locked from the outside the sliding inner doors of his state room along with the outer doors.Some might say the fearlessness which he had shown in battle would surface along with his body on the morning of 5 November,others that he had taken the cowardly way out,unable to face up to certain bankruptcy,humiliation and trial by the very people he had tried all his life to emulate. Maxwell knew the routine of the vessel.The captain would be on the sound-proofed bridge along with colleagues,the engineer was in the engine room where no sound could be heard without.With the other crew sleeping,Maxwell chose his moment,fell forward over a low rail,whilst still clinging with his left arm to the guard rail,thus tearing muscles in his left hand and left shoulder as the autopsy confirmed.With the boat steaming ahead at 14 knots he would be unlikely to be discovered quickly,his request at 0445h to turn up the air-conditioning being the last time anyone heard his voice.He was discovered twelve hours later by a Spanish fisherman,his corpulent figure floating in the water,cause of death determined as heart attack in the water.No insurance payout,but then £20m would be a drop in the Atlantic Ocean compared to the debts of £440m,estimated by Banker's Trust and Cooper's and Lybrand.Had this man made the best of a bad job and finally got his own back on the Establishment,a coterie which had rejected this Outsider all his life,whose debts would in part be repaid by the British government,which with all the trappings that wealth bought had never regarded him as one of their own.