Any death in custody raises suspicions, but Jeffrey Epstein’s jail cell suicide does much more.
That the financier died shortly after being found unconscious on Saturday at New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center, regarded as one of America’s the most secure prisons, adds to those suspicions.
That he was facing sex trafficking charges that might have compromised many of the great and good of our world raises questions as fantastic as anything in a Dan Brown potboiler.
It is certain many of those great and good slept more soundly last night than they have since Epstein was arrested.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of those who made sex-trafficking allegations against Epstein. His death means he will not have to face his accusers. One, who accused him of raping her when she was only 15, said his death would do little to heal the deep scars he left.
Those preparing to give evidence against Epstein will find considerable empathy in this country, as many of those abused as children said that just being believed, that having stories that indicted our great and good accepted, helped ease the trauma clouding their lives.
His suicide denies his accusers that opportunity.
Epstein’s predations and those prominent figures happy to accept his invitations would not have come to light but for the brave persistence of Julie K Brown and the Miami Herald — the first newspaper to publish well-flagged evidence about Epstein and how his reach seemed to offer him considerable protection.
US president Donald Trump once called him a “terrific guy” and “a lot of fun to be with”. Trump’s labour secretary Alexander Acosta resigned in July following criticism of his handling of a 2008 court deal with Epstein.
Acosta was the US attorney in Miami when he sanctioned a deal which secretly ended a sex abuse investigation involving at least 40 teenage girls that could have put him in jail for life.
Epstein pleaded guilty and was jailed for 13 months — though he was allowed daytime freedom to work at his luxury office.
That spectacular background, and allegations that he “misappropriated vast sums of money” has led to immediate calls for investigations.
Several Congress members have demanded answers and the FBI will investigate. Attorney General William Barr said he was “appalled” adding that his death “raises serious questions that must be answered”.
Barr said the Department of Justice Inspector General would open an investigation in addition to the FBI investigation.
It is hard, in a post-truth age ushered in by Epstein’s confrères, to imagine any conclusions will be widely accepted.
There are so many links to the highest offices that this convenient death will find a place in the anthology of conspiracy theories.
His sordid life and suspicious death will join colourful theories around 9/11, Roswell, JFK’s assassination, Princess Diana’s death, and water-fuelled engines.
That process has begun with online theorists offering speculation — some inevitably retweeted by Trump — that Epstein’s death was not suicide or was faked.
Sadly, this wild speculation will distract attention from those who availed of opportunities made possible by Epstein’s trafficking which, conspiracy theorists will argue, is the core objective of this sorry saga.