Prince Andrew may be dragged deeper into the Jeffrey Epstein ‘sex slave’ scandal as sources said a FBI inquiry would now switch to the billionaire’s associates.
Epstein, a former friend of the Duke of York, hanged himself in his New York prison cell yesterday just hours after explosive new documents emerged detailing his depraved activities. The court papers repeated claims that the Duke slept with Virginia Roberts, 17 at the time and one of Epstein’s ‘sex slaves’, and groped a 21-year-old woman. The Prince denies the claims.
As Epstein’s death fuelled a raft of conspiracy theories last night, lawyers for his alleged victims said he had ‘cheated justice’ and expect the criminal investigation to focus on British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, a mutual friend of Epstein and the Duke.
The latest legal documents claim she ‘operated as … Epstein’s procurer of under age girls’. She has repeatedly denied involvement in his crimes.
Prince Andrew is pictured with Epstein in Central Park in New York in February 2011. The Duke may be dragged deeper into the Epstein scandal
Epstein is pictured with his associate and one-time girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005. Investigators may now turn their focus to her after Epstein’s death in his prison cell
Prince Andrew at a party with Ghislaine Maxwell – wearing a blonde wig – and model Heidi Klum at a party in 2000
However, legal sources closely linked to the Epstein probe told The Mail on Sunday that investigators will shift their ‘full attention’ to Miss Maxwell, 57.
Epstein’s body was discovered at 6.30am US time yesterday at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in Manhattan, hours after a court in New York released 2,000 pages of previously sealed legal documents.
As the FBI launched an investigation into Epstein’s death, it emerged that:
- A reporter with the Washington Post newspaper claimed Epstein had told authorities that someone tried to kill him several weeks ago;
- The billionaire had been taken off suicide watch a few days ago, despite being taken to hospital with neck wounds following an apparent suicide bid last month;
- Alleged victims of the financier prepared to file massive compensation claims against his estate;
- The US Attorney General said Epstein’s death ‘raises serious questions’.
- Andrew learned of his one-time friend’s suicide while on holiday at Balmoral Castle with the Queen, his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson and their two daughters.
A legal source said: ‘Ghislaine is the key to all this now that Epstein will no longer face justice himself. The victims deserve answers and she was the person closest to Epstein.
‘Far from being the end to Prince Andrew’s problems, Epstein’s suicide could put him under renewed scrutiny because of his close friendship with Ghislaine.’
Epstein, who once counted Bill Clinton and Donald Trump among his friends, was facing allegations that he created ‘a vast network’ of underage girls whom he abused between 2002 and 2005.
The Mail on Sunday revealed the scandal in 2011.
Virginia Roberts, then 17 and one of Epstein’s accusers, is photographed with Prince Andrew and socialite Ghislaine Maxwell in early 2001
Disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein (pictured in a police mugshot in 2017) hanged himself in his prison cell in New York City on Saturday morning
A black bag believed to contain Epstein’s body was pictured being taken out of New York Presbyterian-Lower Manhattan hospital on Saturday afternoon
A diagram showing a typical cell at the Manhattan jail where Epstein was being held
Yesterday, Jennifer Araoz, who says she was abused from the age of 14, said: ‘I am angry Jeffrey Epstein won’t have to face his survivors of his abuse in court. We have to live with the scars of his actions for the rest of our lives, while he will never face the consequences of the crimes he committed’.
Epstein was accused of arranging to have sex with dozens of underage girls at his residences in New York and Florida, but had denied two counts of sex trafficking.
Julie K Brown, a reporter with the Miami Herald newspaper whose investigation led to the re-opening of the case against Epstein, described his death as a ‘devastating blow’ to his victims, but said there may be people – possibly former Epstein employees who had been made to sign non-disclosure agreements – who ‘may now step forward’. ‘I think the case will now refocus on Ghislaine Maxwell,’ she added.
Jack Scarola, who represents alleged victims, said: ‘We have every reason to believe that the investigation into Epstein’s activities and those involved in assisting him in his pattern of abuse will not end. I hope that includes his possible co-conspirators.
‘I would certainly think, based upon all the information that is currently available, that Miss Maxwell is the focus of criminal investigation right now, she is a significant focus of the investigation.’
Epstein was housed in a special unit with extra security at the Manhattan prison – yet still managed to take his own life.
Epstein was being held without bail at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center (pictured) on charges of conspiracy and sex trafficking
Jeffrey Epstein’s death by suicide in his Manhattan jail cell means the spotlight is now set to turn on his British ‘fixer’ and ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell (pictured)
According to reports, Epstein had told prison guards and fellow inmates that he feared someone had tried to kill him just weeks before his death. Yet an insider, who claimed to have seen the billionaire during his incarceration, said: ‘There was no indication that he might try to take his own life.’
Epstein had avoided federal criminal charges in 2008 after prosecutors brokered a widely criticised deal that allowed him to plea to state charges of solicitation of prostitution from a minor, and he served 13 months in jail.
Even while in custody, he was allowed to leave prison for 12 hours a day, six days a week in order to work at his office in Florida.
Last night Epstein’s lawyers called for a full investigation into his death. ‘We are enormously sorry to learn of today’s news. No one should die in jail,’ they added.
The documents released on Friday were filed as part of a defamation action that Ms Roberts brought in 2015 against Ms Maxwell.
Miss Roberts, who had accused Epstein and Maxwell of sexually abusing her from the age of 16, settled the lawsuit with Ms Maxwell in 2017 before it went to trial.
The Miami Herald and other media outlets petitioned the court to have the lawsuit documents unsealed. The request was denied, but an appeals court ordered them released last month.
Epstein’s suicide comes just 24 hours after court documents from Virginia Roberts Giuffre (pictured holding a picture of herself aged 16) were unsealed
Epstein had sought detention at his Upper East Side mansion while he awaited trial, but a judge denied deemed him a flight risk and refused his bid.
As well as homes in Florida and New York, Epstein owned a private island in the Virgin Islands, a ranch in New Mexico and a property in Paris. His younger brother, Mark, was his ‘only living immediate family member,’ according to a memo filed in federal court last month.
Even after he served time in a Florida jail and became a registered sex offender, Epstein maintained a reputation as a billionaire investor and philanthropist.
Last night, Ms Maxwell could not be contacted for comment. The former girlfriend of Mr Epstein has not commented on the allegations made against her for around three years.
But in 2016, she issued a statement through her agent saying that the claims made by Ms Roberts were ‘obvious lies,’ and ‘fantastical claims.’
Asked if the Duke of York would respond to the news of his former friend’s death, a Buckingham Palace spokesman 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.’
But in 2015 Buckingham Palace issued a dramatic and unprecedented denial that he slept with Miss Roberts, saying; ‘It is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts.
‘Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation.’
Murder theories begin within minutes
Questions were being asked about the death of Jeffrey Epstein just minutes after his apparent suicide, with some observers even suggesting it was murder.
Just days ago, after the disgraced billionaire’s first suicide attempt, Spencer Kuvin, a lawyer for three of his victims, warned: ‘There’s no doubt that no jail will protect you when there are powerful people who want to reach you – wherever you are.’
As soon as the news broke of Epstein’s death, the internet was flooded with conspiracy theories, with claims that his end would help to protect his powerful friends. On Twitter the hashtag ‘Epsteinmurder’ was quickly trending.
Law enforcement experts and responsible sections of the media were also asking why Epstein had been taken off ‘suicide watch’ at the Manhattan correctional centre.
His victims now want to know if anyone else has ever committed suicide there.
They also urgently want to know if it was possible for him to have died alone, once the cause of death is established.
Suspicion over Epstein’s death spread to politicians.
Claire McCaskill, a former Democratic Senator, wrote: ‘Something stinks to high heaven. How does someone on suicide watch hang himself with no intervention? Impossible. Unless…’
A number of other high-profile Washington figures have demanded more information over the circumstances.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: ‘We need answers. Lots of them.’
Presidential hopefuls Amy Klobuchar and Kirsten Gillibrand also demanded transparency as to the details of Epstein’s death.
Some internet users observed that the New York prison where he died was under the watch of Attorney General William Barr, who was chosen to head the Justice Department by Donald Trump, once an associate of Epstein.
Another extraordinary theory was that Epstein was assassinated by Saudi officials. One tweet read: ‘The murder of Jeffrey Epstein is the most blatant display of the power of the deep state I’ve seen since the CIA killed JFK.’