What Jeffrey Epstein’s eerie private island is like now

The disgraced financier’s former private bolthole of Little St James has been eerily frozen in time, barely disturbed since his death in prison in 201. Io Dodds writes

Wednesday 22 December 2021 12:24
<p>An undated US government handout showing Epstein’s mansion complex </p>

An undated US government handout showing Epstein’s mansion complex

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"No tunnels!" says the topless young man standing inside a bare electrical shed on Jeffrey Epstein’s private island, more than a year after the disgraced billionaire child abuser died in prison.

This was August 2020, and the man was an urban explorer and TikTok star named Andy Bracco. He filmed himself sneaking onto the island of Little St James in the US Virgin Islands, sometimes referred to by locals as "paedophile island"

He was not the first and will probably not be the last to slip onto the island, which now lies abandoned with Epstein’s house and strange architecture largely intact. Unsurprisingly, it has become something of a morbid tourist attraction.

Prosecutors allege that this was the centre of an international web of sexual abuse, where girls as young as 14 were confined and assaulted. On Monday, the jury retired in the trial of Epstein’s former partner Ghislaine Maxwell for sex trafficking, which she denies.

But what has happened to the island since Epstein’s death in 2019, and what state is it in now?

On 22 April 2021, demolition crews tore down Epstein’s mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, making way for a new house intended to wipe away its memory.

By contrast, Little St James – which Epstein liked to call "Little St Jeff" – appears to have changed little since the days when Epstein made it his primary residence, sheltered from the intruding eyes and lenses of governments and journalists.

‘It looks like they’re trying to delete any memory of Epstein’

Mr Bracco was just one of many intruders, which have included various YouTubers and online documentarians as well as drone operators. According to Mr Bracco, the island was still guarded by security systems in August 2020.

“There was one super serious part when we didn’t account for what I believe was an infra-red camera by the communications tower," he told Newsweek. “It was pointing directly at us, and if there was a sensor facing us and depending on what software they had it could have set off an alarm. So we had to rush off pretty quickly."

Urban explorer sneaks onto Epstein's private island for haunting footage

He also told The Sun: “There is active security there... the route we took we avoided a lot of the cameras on the island, along with the workers and guards."

There have been a few changes. This April, the Sunday Mirror reported that workers had removed a large decorative sundial, various sculptures and statues, and the initials "JE" etched into the side of an Egyptian-style blue-and-white striped "temple" on the island’s south-west corner.

“It looks like they’re trying to delete any memory of Epstein from the island", one local told the Mirror. "Despite it looking like paradise on earth, any connection to a man like Epstein is bad. Everyone here just wants to forget about him and what he’s accused of."

The swimming pool is still kept filled

By and large, Epstein’s island has remained as it was. Aerial photos taken in December 2021 show Epstein’s hilltop mansion complex, with its swimming pool and jetty, still intact, as well as various other buildings surviving across the island.

At Ms Maxwell’s trial, Epstein’s pilot Larry Visoski described the main residence as "an exploded house" – every room was built out from the central courtyard, and was its own separate bungalow.

The financier’s executive assistant Cimberly Espinosa testified that sand and palm trees were shipped to Little St James to enhance its beaches, and that it had its own firefighters and a fire truck.

In the photos, everything remains clean and pristine. The swimming pool is filled, the roads appear well maintained, the grass looks cut, and the palm trees are still growing. At least from the outside, all is eerily just as it was.

Since it became vacant, the island has been an object of feverish speculation and analysis by people across the world, who pore over footage and images to try to uncover its mysteries.

Rumours of secret tunnels underneath the "temple" and elsewhere have not been substantiated, and a story that children’s bones had been found dumped in the sea nearby appears to be fabrication.

Undated handout photo issued by US Department of Justice of an aerial view of Jeffrey Epstein's private island

Multiple parties are competing to buy the island

Ghoulish as it may seem, both Little St James and its bigger sibling Great St James, which Epstein bought in 2016, have attracted interest from rich buyers.

According to the Miami Herald, whose "Perversion of Justice" investigation in 2018 helped trigger Epstein’s final downfall, there is competition between several parties who plan to use it as a private residence, with some even signing non-disclosure agreements with Epstein’s estate.

“There are people that are quite interested and very qualified to buy the islands, and I have some clients that have already visited the islands,” real estate agent April Newland told the newspaper in February.

Daniel H Weiner, a lawyer working for Epstein’s estates confirmed that it had "received expressions of interest from numerous parties and two to three bona fide offers on those properties.

At the time Epstein’s estate was eager to close a sale because it was facing cash problems. Denise George, the attorney general of the US Virgin Isles, had frozen Epstein’s assets and was seeking a court order to seize his property, including the island.

Mr Weiner, said: “No serious buyer is interested in signing a contract on a multimillion-dollar property that, because of the attorney general’s existing liens, cannot be sold to it.

"In addition, in order to ensure that the estate receives maximum value in a sale, the estate would engage a broker, conduct extensive marketing, and obtain as many offers as the market will generate. The co-executors are not interested in incurring substantial estate costs for marketing a property that cannot be sold."

The legal battle between Ms George and Epstein’s estate is still ongoing, but a source told the New York Post that Little St James is likely to go on sale in 2022.

Until then it remains a perverse monument to one man’s ability to bend justice around his whims, frozen in time at the moment when his web began to unravel.

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