US financier Jeffrey Epstein, awaiting trial on charges he trafficked underage girls for sex, was found dead in his prison cell Saturday from an apparent suicide, officials said.
Political leaders and law enforcement officials quickly expressed shock that a high-profile detainee who had already apparently tried to end his life in late July and would presumably be under close watch could manage to commit suicide. The Justice Department and the FBI launched investigations of the jet-set hedge fund manager’s death.
Epstein, a convicted pedophile who befriended numerous politicians and celebrities over the years, was found unresponsive at the Metropolitan Correctional Center from “an apparent suicide”, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said.
The disgraced financier was discovered around 6:30 am (1030 GMT) and rushed to hospital in New York where he was pronounced dead, it added in a statement.
Attorney General Bill Barr said he was “appalled” to learn of Epstein’s death and had instructed the justice department’s inspector general to probe how he could have died while in federal custody.
“Mr Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered,” Barr said in a statement.
The FBI is also investigating the incident, said the DoJ.
The New York Times and other media quoted officials as saying Epstein hanged himself.
The city medical examiner’s office confirmed Epstein’s death but not what caused it.
It came a day after a tranche of sealed legal documents were released for the first time providing new details about what prosecutors allege was Epstein’s sex-trafficking operation.
The death also comes just over two weeks after the 66-year-old was found unconscious in his cell with marks on his neck after an apparent suicide attempt.
Epstein denied the charges and had faced up to 45 years in prison — effectively the rest of his life — if convicted.