Disgraced U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein killed himself, media reports say

FILE PHOTO: U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services’ sex offender registry March 28, 2017 and obtained by Reuters July 10, 2019. New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services/Handout/File Photo via REUTERS

(Reuters) – U.S. billionaire Jeffrey Epstein took his own life overnight in a lower Manhattan jail cell where he was being held without bail on federal sex-trafficking charges, U.S. media outlets reported on Saturday.

Epstein’s body was found on Saturday morning at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, said Aja Davis, a spokeswoman for the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. She could not immediately say how he died, saying that her office would need to examine the body.

Attempts to reach officials at the centre for comment were not immediately successful.

Epstein, who was arrested on July 6, had pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking involving dozens of underage girls as young as 14, from at least 2002 to 2005.

Last month, Epstein was found unconscious on the floor of his jail cell with marks on his neck, according to media reports. Officials were investigating that incident as a possible suicide or assault. It was not clear whether jail officials had taken any special precautions afterwards.

Epstein, 66, was confined to the correctional centre while he appealed a district judge’s refusal to let him live under 24-hour guard in his opulent townhouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

The charges against Epstein were announced more than a decade after he pleaded guilty in Florida to state prostitution charges after a deal with prosecutors that has been widely criticized.

A woman who accused Epstein of keeping her as a sex slave said one of the financier’s associates had instructed her to have sex with at least a half-dozen prominent men, according to a court filing unsealed on Friday in a civil lawsuit.

Reporting by Jan Wolfe in Washington, Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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