By Arin Sanjay Doshi
A sudden suicide
Jean Luc Brunel, the disgraced French modelling agent was recently found dead by hanging in his Paris jail cell from an apparent suicide on the 19th of February 2021 at 1:30am. Brunel is infamous for procuring young women and girls through his modelling agency towards Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell’s reprehensible sex trafficking program. He was arrested and sent to the gallows of the De la Sante prison for charges of raping minors under the age of 18 and sexual harassment in association with their probe into possible crimes committed alongside Epstein in December 2020.
Speculations arose around the nature and timing of Brunel’s death being similar to Epstein’ suicide in prison in 2019, especially since there were no cell cameras in De Brunel’s cell. De Brunel’s lawyer Mathias Chichportich argued that he had attempted suicide many times before his death. Even in spite of his suicidal tendencies, he was not put under suicide watch. Under suicide watch, prisoners would be placed in a special cell to prevent any attempt of self-harm. It remains an unsolved mystery, why the French prison authorities failed to do so. Yet, according to, Erwan Saoudi a member from the Force Ouvriere Union of the French penitentiaries system noted that Brunel was consistently monitored 5 times a day by two prison guards when they walked in the prison corridors.
Thysia Huisman, a former model was one of the first few accusers who led the charge of accusations against Brunel in 2019 by claiming that she had been drugged and raped by him in 1991 when she was 18. She had remained silent for 3 decades due to the shame and guilt for what she had faced but decided that she needed to be a voice of reason against the sick crimes committed by him. Thysia had expressed her shock at how abruptly the case had ended since she had been fighting and speaking out for 2 and a half years alongside other victims who had come forward to recount the abuse faced by De Brunel. In fact, she also expressed her suspicions at how similar and convenient the death of De Brunel was in comparison to Epstein’s prison suicide just before they were supposed to face a jury for their crimes. If Brunel had been alive, it would have meant being sentenced to 45 years in prison.
Epstein killed himself?
Jeffrey Epstein had been at the focal point of attention throughout the years since 2005 until the 6th of July 2019 when he was arrested for charges of sexual assault and presumable engagement in sex trafficking. Ultimately to the demise of the victims who wanted justice for Epstein’s crimes, he was soon found dead and hanged in his jail cell on the 10th of August 2019. The case of Epstein’s suicide has provoked more questions than answers due to the unusual circumstances surrounding his death and subsequent investigations.
When Epstein was first taken into custody in July 2019 at the Manhattan Metropolitan Correctional Center, he had attempted suicide. Epstein was then put on suicide watch for monitoring before his trial. However, Epstein was taken off suicide watch just before his death in August. Epstein had undergone a psychological evaluation through a doctoral psychologist in the prison who determined that Epstein no longer needed to be on suicide watch. In spite of this decision, former wardens of the federal prison system were baffled by how the federal prison system authorised this. Cameron Linday, a former warden who has worked in 3 different federal facilities, mentioned that for such a prolific individual like Epstein, the system should have taken stricter measures in dealing with this matter.
Furthermore, there have been certain debates being raised on how Epstein was killed. For instance, the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office ruled out that Epstein’s death was the cause of suicide through hanging yet Dr Michael Baden, a forensic expert who had observed the 4-hour autopsy of Epstein’s corpse stated that there were unusual fractures around his neck. There were injuries on the right thyroid cartilage and the left hyoid bone of his neck, something unusual if the cause of death were to be hanging. He believes that Epstein’s death was a homicide due to the nature of the injuries. Even with this insight, the Medical Examiner’s Office has stood firmly by the claim that Epstein had killed himself. They further stated these fractures are common when it comes to suicidal hanging.
Additionally, the two prison guards Tova Noel and Michael Thomas assigned to monitor Epstein did not monitor Epstein’s cell and willingly lied on the prison forms stating they had made the required rounds checking up on Epstein the night before his death. Both were also incriminated for browsing the internet and sleeping whilst on duty. How so many things go wrong within the federal proceedings of a trial of such a high profile fugitive, one can wonder at the sheer carelessness of the American federal system handling the death of Epstein.
The origins of Epstein
The unanswered questions surrounding the sudden suicide of Epstein should not be surprising considering how wealthy and influential he was. This was the paedophile who knew the creme de la creme of society such as the former American presidents Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew (Queen Elizabeth’s son) to name a few. Whilst it is not known how wealthy Epstein was, he was a man who rose to become an influential investment banker with his own firm Epstein and Co. Soon enough Epstein had mansions in Florida, New York, France and even owned the island of Little Saint James in the Virgin Islands or infamously known as “Paedo Island”. Epstein would use his private jet the Lolita Express to traffic the young minor girls into the island where they would then be further sexually exploited and used by Epstein and his socialite circles from Hollywood and influential politicians. A former pilot for the Lolita Express mentioned how celebrities (to name a few) like Naomi Campbell and Kevin Spacey have flown on the Lolita Express. Ironically enough, Bill Clinton has firmly denied allegations of him engaging with any of the girls at the island, even though there is a leaked photograph of him receiving a massage from a young girl.
Even with Epstein being known for his notoriety to the authorities, he managed to grease the palms of the former Florida state attorney Alex Acosta to be given a jail sentence of only 13 months for soliciting prostitution from a minor. Epstein was under investigation by the FBI for soliciting sex from girls at his Palm Beach Florida residence. Epstein would target young girls from poorer neighbourhoods to come over to his mansion in the hopes of receiving money for massage services but during these sessions the girls would then be molested by Epstein and Maxwell sometimes alongside instances of Epstein masturbating in front of these minors. The Miami police also uncovered that some of the girls who were hired as masseuses were then hired by Epstein to recruit more younger girls who would then face a similar fate. Whilst it is unknown how many girls were abused under him, the police had identified 80 girls who had been abused by him just before he was arrested. What is even more worrying was that this was done through a secret plea deal organised between Epstein’s lawyers and the prosecuting team which were acting for the victims without informing the victims themselves of this deal. This gets even murkier with another key sexual assault victim Virginia Giuffre claiming that Robert Dershowitz, a prominent lawyer for the plea deal had sex with her when she was underage on Epstein island and that Prince Andrew had vociferously lobbied the government at the time to pass the plea deal.
Imagine how unsafe and untrustworthy this world is for a sexual abuser survivor knowing that there is an unlikelihood of people in power being dealt with the hand of justice when it comes to sex trafficking. Imagine your own government hushing up this detestable affair due to them being connected with an abuser that happens to be wealthy and prominent in social circles. The cases of the suicides of two prominent paedophiles alongside the handling and covering of the investigations of the them have proven to show how easily the script can be flipped when these figures are well connected to the social elite and have a lot of money. This greatly undermines the justice system especially when it comes to helping sexual abuse survivors and giving them justice and increases more mistrust in a system that is meant to help victims rather than the oppressor. Realistically, if this were any ordinary person who had committed these crimes would be put to justice swiftly and put into jail quicker than they know it.
At the moment Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s associate faces up to 65 years in prison after a Manhattan jury found her guilty of five of six counts against her for trafficking teens to be abused by her and the late paedophile Jeffrey Epstein. The case plans to be appealed by Maxwell at a later date. Even with Maxwell facing the supposed wrath of the law with victims being given justice, it has come too late for the numerous victims who faced sickening abuse trauma under Epstein. The elites that have engaged with Epstein’s endeavours continue to roam free without consequences of the law further undermines the justice given to the victims of Epstein’s crimes.
Edited by Zuzanna Mietlińska, illustration by Oscar Laviolette