Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Dire health, a paedophile letter and call to dead mother: Jeffrey Epstein’s final days detailed in new documents

Thousands of papers offer a more detailed glimpse into the days leading up to sex trafficker’s apparent suicide, writes Sheila Flynn

Saturday 03 June 2023 14:12 BST
(New York State Sex Offender Registry/Getty)

From the very outset, there had been plenty of mystery shrouding Jeffrey Epstein, a boy from Brooklyn who’d inexplicably exploded onto the international stage amongst the rich, famous and powerful. The origin and extent of his money was unknown. His network of connections was vast, diverse and dubious. He owned a property empire across the globe and flitted amongst his homes, where he was constantly surrounded by women of questionable age and purpose.

His arrest in July 2019 on sex trafficking charges sparked a flurry of speculation that long-awaited answers – along with sinister connections and misdeeds – could soon be revealed in court proceedings. But Epstein was dead by the following month, discovered hanged in his jail cell at the now-shuttered Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City.

While the death was ruled a suicide, its abrupt and inglorious nature further fuelled the conspiracy theories and suspicion about almost anything – and anyone – connected with Epstein. Now, a new trove of documents from the federal Bureau of Prisons, obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act, sheds new light on the lead-up to and aftermath of the infamous financier’s departure from this world.

Here’s everything we know about the previously unreleased details.

Epstein’s deteriorating health

Documents show that an initial health screening recorded Epstein as suffering from sleep apnea, constipation, hypertension, lower back pain and prediabetes, according to the AP. He had been previously treated for chlamydia and had reported 10-plus female sexual partners within the previous five years.

Mentally, Epstein was struggling to adjust to life behind bars and had complained about it, documents indicate. Jail officials observed him agitated and unable to sleep, and did not have with him breathing apparatus for sleep apnea, the AP reported.

After a judge denied Epstein bail on 18 July 2019, he reportedly made an attempt on his life and was found on the floor of his cell with with a strip of bedsheet around his neck – but survived with just bruises and was placed on suicide watch and, later, psychiatric observation.

Yet, even after a 31-hour stint on suicide watch, Epstein insisted he wasn’t suicidal, telling a jail psychologist he had a “wonderful life” and “would be crazy” to end it.

“Jail officers noted in logs that they observed him, ‘sitting at the edge of the bed, lost in thought,’ and sitting ‘with his head against the wall,’” the news agency reported.

Epstein had also called himself a “coward,” the outlet wrote.

Epstein’s daily jail life

Epstein apparently did not like the orange jumpsuit provided to inmates in the special housing unit and requested a brown one for near-daily meetings with his lawyers, and “complained about being treated like he was a ‘bad guy’ despite being well behaved behind bars.”

His surroundings, certainly, were a far cry from the luxurious mansions he owned; documents show that he did not even have a working toilet at the time of his death.

“He was still left in the same cell with a broken toilet,” the jail’s chief psychologist wrote in an August 9 email, according to the AP. “Please move him to the cell next door when he returns from legal as the toilet still does not work.”

Epstein shared his cell with a prisoner named Erain Reyes until the latter was taken to a court hearing on 9 August 2019 and did not return.

Despite his complaining, Epstein “did make some attempts to adapt to his jailhouse surroundings, the records show,” according to the AP. “He signed up for a Kosher meal and told prison officials, through his lawyer, that he wanted permission to exercise outside. Two days before he was found dead, Epstein bought $73.85 worth of items from the prison commissary, including an AM/FM radio and headphones. He had $566 left in his account when he died.”

Epstein’s final hours

On the morning of 9 August 2019, Epstein’s cellmate was taken to court at 8am, and the financier was taken to meet with his lawyers a half-hour later, according to the documents.

A judge unsealed 2,000 pages of documents on the same day in a sexual abuse lawsuit against Epstein, and he was visited by several attorneys throughout the day before excusing himself around “to make a telephone call to his family”.

“According to a memo from a unit manager, Epstein told a jail employee that he was calling his mother, who’d been dead for 15 years at that point.”

When Epstein arrived back at his cell, according to the documents, he was reportedly “ in good spirits, nothing unusual.” 

The inmate was found dead in his cell the next morning.

Letter to convicted paedophile Larry Nasser

While at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, Epstein attempted to reach out to another convicted sex offender, according to the documents – writing a letter to none other than Larry Nassar, the Olympics team doctor who pleaded guilty in 2017 after years of abuse of athletes.

The Assoiated Press reported that a letter from Epstein to Nassar– which was not included among the documents obtained under FOIA – was found returned to sender in the jail’s mail room weeks after Epstein’s death.

“It appeared he mailed it out and it was returned back to him,” the investigator who found the letter told a prison official by email, according to the AP. “I am not sure if I should open it or should we hand it over to anyone?”

Chaotic aftermath

The documents obtained by the news agency paint a portrait of a scrambling and inefficient prisons system attempting to deal with the death of one of its most high-profile inmates.

“In one email, a prosecutor involved in Epstein’s criminal case complained about a lack of information from the Bureau of Prisons in the critical hours after his death, writing that it was ‘frankly unbelievable’ that the agency was issuing public press releases ‘before telling us basic information so that we can relay it to his attorneys who can relay it to his family,’” the AP reported.

“In another email, a high-ranking Bureau of Prisons official made a spurious suggestion to the agency’s director that news reporters must have been paying jail employees for information about Epstein’s death because they were reporting details of the agency’s failings — impugning the ethics of journalists and the agency’s own workers.

“An internal memo, undated but sent after Epstein’s death, attributed problems at the jail to ‘seriously reduced staffing levels, improper or lack of training, and follow up and oversight.’

“The memo also detailed steps the Bureau of Prisons has taken to remedy lapses Epstein’s suicide exposed, including requiring supervisors to review surveillance video to ensure officers made required cell checks.”

The two prison workers tasked with guarding Epstein, Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, had been indicted in the wake of his death, but charges were dropped last year after they worked out a deal.

Prosecutors alleged the guards had been “sitting at their desks just 15 feet (4.6 meters) from Epstein’s cell, shopped online for furniture and motorcycles, and walked around the unit’s common area instead of making required rounds every 30 minutes,” AP reported.

“During one two-hour period, both appeared to have been asleep, according to their indictment,” the AP reported, and the pair admitted to falsifying logs – some copies of which were included among the newly-released documents, with the guards’ signatures redacted.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in