Questions are mounting about the apparent suicide of disgraced billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, whose death has sparked allegations of a cover-up aimed at protecting his high-profile contacts reports The Week.
Epstein, who was awaiting trial for the alleged trafficking of underage girls, was found dead in his jail cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City, described by the BBC as “one of the most secure in the country,” after apparently taking his own life. He had been placed on suicide watch following an incident last month, although NBC reports he was apparently taken off it last week meaning there was no CCTV in his cell at the time of his death.
US Attorney General Bill Barr said he was “appalled”, adding in a statement that Epstein's death “raises serious questions that must be answered,”. Both the Justice Department and FBI have announced investigations.
Page Pate for CNN says the circumstances of his death “raise serious questions”.
“Why was Epstein taken off suicide watch so soon? Why was he not monitored more closely in the SHU where he was held? 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 so more nefarious?” they ask.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, has called Epstein’s death “way too convenient”.
“What a lot of us want to know is, what did he know?” he told reporters in the battleground state of Iowa. “How many other millionaires and billionaires were part of the illegal activities that he was engaged in? Well, that information didn't die with Jeffrey Epstein. That needs to be investigated, too,” he said.
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 rumors 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 “pedophilia 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 is a claim by a woman that Prince Andrew had touched her breast at Epstein's Manhattan mansion, something Buckingham Palace denies categorically.
Other online conspiracies include claims the Obama administration forged a secret plea deal back in 2008 in order to protect Clinton, despite the fact it was actually struck under the Bush administration. Meanwhile, a manipulated photo, shared by thousands on Twitter and Facebook, falsely claimed to show Epstein with Donald Trump and a young Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter.
“Other Epstein theories floating online have been darker,” says the Telegraph, with Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida raising the possibility that others might have been involved in Epstein’s death.
The Jewish Chronicle reports that “as the hashtag #EpsteinMurder trended worldwide, thousands shared conspiracies on Twitter alleging Epstein had been a Mossad agent, that his killing had been ordered by a ‘Jewish mafia’ or that the Talmud contains passages that justified sex abuse of children who are not Jewish.”
While much attention has been focused on the more outlandish theories concerning his death, 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.