Questions are mounting about the death of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, whose apparent suicide has sparked allegations of a cover-up aimed at protecting his high-profile contacts.
Epstein was found dead in his cell at New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center on 10 August, after apparently hanging himself while awaiting trial for alleged sex trafficking of underage girls.
However, post-mortem results have revealed multiple broken bones in Epstein’s neck, including the hyoid bone near to the Adam’s apple - an injury more common among victims of strangulation than of hanging, The Washington Post reports.
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Epstein had been placed on suicide watch following an incident last month at the jail, described by the BBC as “one of the most secure in the country”, but this close observation was reportedly lifted shortly before he was found dead. As a result, there was no CCTV in his cell.
US Attorney General Bill Barr has said that Epstein’s death “raises serious questions that must be answered”. Both the Justice Department and the FBI have announced investigations.
The findings of the autopsy, completed on Sunday, could still lead to a determination that Epstein took his own life, as the injuries found do also occur in cases of hanging, particularly in older people, reports The Times.
“But it apparently caused New York’s medical examiner to postpone a determination on the cause of death pending further investigation”, adds the newspaper.
“In all forensic investigations, all information must be synthesised to determine the cause and manner of death. Everything must be consistent - no single finding can be evaluated in a vacuum,” said chief medical examiner, Barbara Sampson, when asked about Epstein’s neck injuries.
Jonathan Arden, president of the US National Association of Medical Examiners, told The Washington Post that further investigation might include analysis of the noose and whether the body experienced any substantial drop in the course of the hanging.
Meanwhile, CNN says that answers must also be given about the wider circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death.
The broadcaster asks: “Why was Epstein taken off suicide watch so soon? Why was he not monitored more closely... And given the nature of the charges against him and the other powerful, high-profile individuals whose names have been linked to his case, was this all a mistake or something more nefarious?”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, has called Epstein’s death “way too convenient”.
He added: “What a lot of us want to know is, what did he know?”
The Times reports his death might also bring “relief, perhaps, among some who had feared what might have emerged from his trial on sex-trafficking charges”.
The financier once counted Donald Trump, former president Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew among his friends, sparking rumours about which high-profile figures knew about his alleged sex crimes.
“Fuelled by Epstein’s ties to princes, politicians and other famous and powerful people, online theorists quickly offered unsubstantiated speculation - including some retweeted by President Donald Trump - that Epstein’s death wasn’t a suicide, or it was faked,” reports The Daily Telegraph.
The US president, who once described Epstein as a “terrific guy”, retweeted a message from conservative actor and comedian Terrence K. Williams, who suggested his death might be linked to Bill Clinton.
The president also retweeted a post that claimed documents unsealed in court this week revealed his predecessor also took private trips to Epstein’s “paedophile island”, “an apparent reference to old reports, denied by the former president, that he was a guest at Epstein’s Caribbean island, Little St James”, says The Independent.
One of Epstein’s long-time advisers and closest friends said he had predicted that the ex-investment banker would be dead within a couple of weeks.
The man, who did not want to be named, told the Sun on Sunday: “There’s no way he killed himself. In a maximum-security confinement it’s impossible that Jeffrey took his own life.”
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who now works as a lawyer for Trump, further stoked the conspiracy theories by tweeting:
Some have questioned the timing of his death, coming just a day after hundreds of pages of court documents were released that revealed new allegations against Epstein and some of his high-profile associates.
Among those are a claim by a woman that Prince Andrew had touched her breast at Epstein’s Manhattan mansion, something Buckingham Palace denies categorically.
Epstein’s alleged victims have expressed disappointment that he will no longer stand trial.
“I am extremely mad and hurt thinking he once again thought he was above us and took the easy way out,” Jena-Lisa Jones said in a statement.
“I am angry Jeffrey Epstein won’t have to face the survivors of his abuse in court,” another alleged victim, Jennifer Araoz, told CNBC.
“We have to live with the scars of his actions for the rest of our lives” she added.
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