Disgraced US billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, facing a charge of sex trafficking of minors in New York has committed suicide.
Reports quoting law enforcement officers said the 66 year-old paedophile committed suicide in his cell in a Manhattan jail on Saturday morning. His body was wheeled out and taken to a New York hospital around 7.30am.
The incident comes two weeks after the billionaire was found “injured and in a fetal position” on the floor of his cell, with injuries to his neck.
He was then placed on suicide watch as a result.
Epstein, a hedge fund billionaire who had ties to top politicians and celebrities, was charged on 8 July with sexually exploiting dozens of young girls.
Epstein was arrested at an airport in New Jersey after returning to the United States from Paris on a private jet.
In an indictment unsealed in US District Court for the Southern District of New York, he was charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.
The charge accused him of abusing dozens of young girls at his properties in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, some of them as young as 14. Epstein denied the charges and had faced up to 45 years in prison — effectively the rest of his life — if convicted.
Aside from the offences alleged, rumours circulated of further child abuse at Epstein’s private Carribean island, according to additional court documents unsealed on Friday.
The city medical examiner’s office confirmed Epstein’s death but said nothing about what caused it or the time of death. It said a medical investigation has been opened.
Epstein did not appear to be showing any visible signs of injuries when he appeared in court on July 31 following his first attempted suicide. The court told him that his trial wouldn’t begin before June next year.
The Metropolitan Correction Center, a federal facility in Manhattan that is often used to house suspects awaiting or during trial, is considered one of the most secure penal establishments in the US.
The infamous Mexican drug trafficker Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman spent more than two years there before being convicted and transferred to a federal prison in Colorado.
Epstein’s death quickly raised questions about how he could take his own life despite reportedly being put on suicide watch after his first failed attempt.
“We need answers. Lots of them,” tweeted New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Epstein, whose friends have included President Donald Trump, former president Bill Clinton and Britain’s Prince Andrew, was convicted previously of paying young girls for sexual massages at his Palm Beach mansion.
But he avoided federal prosecution under a plea deal that required Epstein to admit to a single Florida state charge of soliciting prostitution from a minor and register as a sex offender.
He served 13 months in a county jail before being released in 2009.
Last month, Alex Acosta resigned as US labor secretary amid a backlash over the deal that he negotiated with Epstein in that case while he was a federal prosecutor in Florida.