“Saturday, August 10, 2019, at approximately 6.30am, inmate Jeffrey Edward Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell … subsequently pronounced dead by hospital staff,” reads a statement from the Metropolitan Correctional Center where Epstein, 66, had been held without bail since his arrest on 6 July on charges of sex trafficking girls as young as 14.
The FBI is investigating the incident, and the attorney general, William Barr, said he had also opened an investigation by the Department of Justice’s inspector general and was “appalled” by the death. “Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered,” Barr said.
Lawyers for several of Epstein’s alleged victims, including Virginia Giuffre, whose depositions detailing her experience as one of the financiers’ “slaves” when she was just 14 years old were released yesterday, called for the investigations into his crimes to continue, despite his death.
“We are hopeful that the government will continue to investigate and will focus on those who participated and facilitated Epstein’s horrifying sex trafficking scheme that damaged so many,” Sigrid McCawley said.
His death comes just days after he was found unconscious in a Manhattan jail cell with injuries to his neck, US media had reported, citing unidentified sources.
It was not clear how he suffered those injuries. Two anonymous sources told New York’s local NBC News 4 that Epstein’s injuries may have been self-inflicted, while another said an assault by another inmate had not been ruled out.
The Brooklyn-born financier made his name at the investment bank Bear Stearns before opening his own firm in 1982, managing money for clients with wealth in excess of $1bn. The business came with an intensive social schedule. Epstein positioned himself as a party figure in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, and courted the rich, famous and powerful across America and the world.
Epstein’s circle of friends and acquaintances has included Donald Trump; Bill Clinton; Prince Andrew; Leslie Wexner, founder of the company that owns the Victoria’s Secret lingerie brand; and many other prominent names in law, entertainment and politics.
The first allegations of sexual abuse came in 2005 when a woman contacted the Palm Beach police, alleging her 14-year-old stepdaughter had been taken to Epstein’s mansion by an older girl. The girl was allegedly paid $300 to strip and massage Epstein.
A large tranche of documents released on Friday from a lawsuit against Ghislaine Maxwell – who allegedly procured girls for the financier – contained both lurid claims and denials of world leaders’ involvement in his alleged sex trafficking.
Giuffre, who is among Epstein’s many accusers, sued Maxwell in 2015, alleging the British socialite and daughter of the former media tycoon Robert Maxwell defamed her by claiming she was a liar in her accusations against Maxwell and Epstein.
As Epstein’s world unraveled, some of those who had sought his financial investment advice came forward while many more preferred to distance themselves, issuing statements painting their interactions in minimal terms. They included Trump and Clinton, who both issued statements saying they had had little to do with Epstein in recent years.
“We discovered that he had misappropriated vast sums of money from me and my family,” Wexner said in the letter. “This was, frankly, a tremendous shock, even though it clearly pales in comparison to the unthinkable allegations against him now.”
The allegations of fraud came as Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, ordered a state criminal investigation of a Palm Beach sheriff and former Palm Beach state attorney over their handling of Epstein’s 2007 sex abuse case.
The latest investigation, reported the Miami Herald, will probably focus on the lenient work privileges Epstein enjoyed while serving a 13-month sentence for soliciting prostitution from underage girls, the product of the controversial 2008 deal with federal authorities.
The financier was allowed to work from his office six days a week, according to Palm Beach county sheriff’s records. His personal limousine picked him up from jail as early as 7.15am and dropped him off as late as 10.40pm.
In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.