Jeffrey Epstein, the multimillionaire financier who was awaiting trial for sex trafficking girls as young as 14, was today found dead in a New York jail after apparently taking his own life.
Epstein’s body was discovered at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in Manhattan at around 11.30am. The medical examiner’s office confirmed his death.
It comes mere weeks after Epstein was found semi-conscious in his cell with injuries to his neck. It is not clear how he suffered those injuries.
Epstein had been awaiting trial after pleading not guilty to sex trafficking and conspiracy charges. He was being held without bail.
The 66-year-old was accused of paying girls under the age of 18 to perform sex acts at his mansions in Manhattan and Florida between 2002 and 2005.
It is not clear whether authorities put in additional safeguards to watch Epstein after the incident last month which left him nearly unconscious.
Epstein’s wealth saw him amass a series of high-profile connections worldwide. He cultivated a social circle which spanned the likes of President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton, and Prince Andrew.
His arrest last month saw separate investigations launched into how authorities handled his case initially when similar charges were brought against him more than a decade ago.
In that case in 2008, a deal allowed Epstein to plead guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution in Florida and avoid more serious federal charges. He spent 18 months in prison.
He was expected to stand trial next year over the new charges, which carried a possible prison sentence of up to 45 years.
His death came just a day after the release of a tranche of previously sealed legal documents which made a series of allegations about what went on inside Epstein’s properties.
The documents were filed as part of a defamation lawsuit in federal court that Virginia Giuffre brought in 2015 against Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s longtime companion and confidant. Ms Giuffre and Ms Maxwell settled the lawsuit shortly before the trial was to begin in 2017.
The cache of legal papers includes an allegation that Prince Andrew touched the breast of a young woman at one of Epstein’s homes.
In the documents, Johanna Sjoberg, another alleged Epstein victim, said Prince Andrew touched her breast in Epstein’s Manhattan apartment in 2001, a claim rejected by Buckingham Palace.
In the papers, Ms Sjoberg said: “I just remember someone suggesting a photo, and they told us to go get on the couch. And so Andrew and Virginia sat on the couch, and they put the puppet, the puppet on her lap.
“And so then I sat on Andrew’s lap, and I believe on my own volition, and they took the puppet’s hands and put it on Virginia’s breast, and so Andrew put his on mine.”
The documents claim Ms Sjoberg was approached by “perfect stranger” Ms Maxwell, who “lured” her to Epstein’s home with the promise of a “legitimate job.”
A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: “This relates to proceedings in the United States, to which The Duke Of York is not a party. Any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue.”