Jeffrey Epstein: How did disgraced financier die?

Investigators are still examining what happened to Epstein two years after his death

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Tuesday 18 January 2022 22:45
Ghislaine Maxwell was dangerous predator, prosecutor says
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British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell may have been convicted in December of running a “pyramid scheme of abuse” and trafficking girls and young women for sex, but the Jeffrey Epstein saga continues to have an afterlife.

In a forthcoming documentary, airing on Tuesday, 18 January, on ITV, former associates of Maxwell suggest she may have had an intimate relationship with Prince Andrew, in addition to her long relationship with Epstein himself.

“From the way she was allowed to enter and exit the palace at will, we realised... suspected, that she may have had an intimate relationship with Prince Andrew,” Former Buckingham Palace royal protection officer Paul Page says in the documentary.

Since the verdict, there have also been developments in a parallel case, a civil lawsuit from Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who claims Prince Andrew had sex with her knowing she was underaged after she was trafficked by Epstein and Maxwell. In January, a federal judge allowed the case, where Prince Andrew has denied wrongdoing, to go to trail.

Looming behind all this, however, is a shocking even from 2019 that has left few who follow the case closely with closure.

In 2019, Epstein died by suicide in prison before he could be put on trial for trafficking charges of his own.

As the Epstein saga continues to unfold, here’s what you need to know about the circumstances of his death.

How did Jeffrey Epstein die?

Epstein died on 10 August inside the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, where he was confined ahead of a pending trial for allegedly recruiting dozens of teen girls to engage in sexual acts with him and his friends. He was facing up to 45 years in prison if he was convicted.

Authorities ruled the death suicide, and Mr Epstein was found with a noose made out of a bedsheet.

Why is there skepticism about Jeffrey Epstein’s death?

Since the 66-year-old’s death, speculation has run rampant that Epstein did not kill himself, though authorities ranging from the medical examiner to former US Attorney General William Barr have confirmed that Epstein killed himself. In the immediate aftermath of the disgraced businessman’s death, people were already questioning whether it was a suicide.

One of his lawyers, Reid Weingarten, said he had met with Epstein and “we did not see a despairing, despondent, suicidal person”. His attorney argued instead that Epstein’s body, found with broken bones in his neck, which can also occur during strangulation, showed evidence “far more consistent with assault”.

President Trump piled on as well, retweeting a conspiracy theory tying the death to Bill Clinton, who had flown on Epstein’s private jet dubbed the “Lolita Express”, as had numerous other figures in politics and entertainment – including Mr Trump himself.

The death also set off fevered speculation online, where the story overlapped with the themes of the increasingly influential QAnon conspiracy movement, which believes a cabal of paedophilic Democratic and media elites are conspiring to harm children.

Then-Attorney General Barr, however, said he personally reviewed security footage of Epstein’s cell and said no one else was present during the death.

"I can understand people who immediately, whose minds went to sort of the worst-case scenario because it was a perfect storm of screw-ups," he told the Associated Press in 2019.

There were other factors that raised eyebrows as well, including Epstein’s repeated comments to prison psychologists that he was mentally sound and not contemplating suicide.

“Why would you ever think I would be suicidal? I am not suicidal and I would never be,” Epstein told one prison official, adding that as a Jew, it was against his religion.

“I have no interest in killing myself,” Epstein declared on another occasion, saying he was a  “coward” who “would not do that to myself”, according to Bureau of Prisons documents reviewed by The New York Times.

What’s more, even after an apparent suicide attempt in July and growing concern from prison psychologists he would try again, the two guards set to monitor him have admitted to lapses, including lying on documents about whether they had checked his cell the night of his death.

What happens now?

Two years later, the Bureau of Prisons and Department of Justice are still investigating the death, fueling further criticisms that something seems to be amiss.

"Jeffrey Epstein should still be sitting behind bars today – but the system failed on every level, and he escaped justice," US Senator Ben Sasse, among those pushing for more information on what happened, said in August. "We owe it to the young women he victimized to continue our push for answers, and ensure that this never happens again."

The suicide has also opened up federal authorities to criticisms as to how they let an inmate in their care take his own life.

Documents reported by CNN and the Times reveal a number of errors leading up to the death. Officials initially segregated Epstein with the general population and failed to note his previous sex offender convictions. They made errors on record-keeping that indicated he was Black, even though he was white. On the night of his death, when he was left alone even though he’d been ordered to have a cellmate, he claimed he was calling his mother, who is dead, and was instead calling his girlfriend.

Psychologists were also clearly aware the man was disturbed before his death, including temporarily being placed on suicide watch.

This May, a judge approved a deal that would see the two guards who failed to monitor Epstein’s cell avoid jail time and instead get community service.

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