Jeffrey Epstein death ruled 'suicide by hanging'

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Jeffrey EspsteinImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
Epstein was awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges when he was found dead in his cell

Jeffrey Epstein's death in a Manhattan jail cell has officially been ruled a suicide by hanging, according to the New York medical examiner.

The well-connected financier, 66, was found dead on Saturday while awaiting federal trial for sex trafficking.

The US Bureau of Prisons had already called his death an "apparent suicide" but that did not stop conspiracy theories from swirling.

President Donald Trump had suggested there may have been foul play.

The Department of Justice has launched an investigation into how Epstein was able to die in New York's highly secure Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC).

Attorney General William Barr said officials have uncovered "serious irregularities" at the jail, which has housed other high-profile detainees such as Mexican drug baron El Chapo and fraudster Bernie Madoff.

He has also promised that Epstein will continue to be investigated in order to bring to justice any other possible conspirators.

Earlier this week, two prison guards were suspended and a warden temporarily reassigned from MCC amid widespread reports that 30-minute checks, required within Epstein's unit, were not carried out properly.

Epstein was discovered on the floor of his Special Housing Unit cell at about 06:30 (10:30 GMT) local time on Saturday.

Image source, Anadolu Agency via Getty
Image caption,
Epstein was also supposed to have a cellmate, but did not at the time of his death, according to reports

It came after an earlier suicide attempt on 23 July that saw Epstein temporarily transferred to the special suicide watch wing of the jail.

On Tuesday the New York Times reported that guards in the Special Housing Unit had allegedly fallen asleep on the night of Epstein's death.

One guard was working a fifth straight day of overtime shifts, it was reported, while another was forced to work mandatory overtime that night.

Why is he being sued?

On Friday, Epstein's estate was sued by two new unnamed accusers who claim they were offered "hundreds of dollars" for massages that included "unwanted touching".

This is the second lawsuit filed against Epstein's estate, which is estimated by federal officials to be worth $500m (£410m).

On Wednesday, Jennifer Araoz, 32, sued Epstein's estate, his longtime girlfriend and three members of staff who she said helped prepare her for Epstein's abuse.

What was Epstein accused of?

Epstein pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking and conspiracy charges last month and was being held without bail.

He was accused of paying girls under the age of 18 to perform sex acts at his Manhattan and Florida mansions between 2002 and 2005.

Media caption,

US Attorney General William Barr :'Co-conspirators should not rest easy'

Police arrested him last month after he landed in New Jersey on his private jet.

Epstein avoided similar charges in a controversial secret plea deal in 2008, and instead pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.