Video footage of the area around Jeffrey Epstein’s prison cell on a day he apparently tried to kill himself was permanently deleted by mistake, US prosecutors have said.
Officials at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre (MCC) in New York believed they had preserved footage of guards finding the convicted sex offender after he appeared to have attempted suicide, but actually saved a video from a different part of the jail.
Prosecutors said officials “inadvertently preserved video from the wrong tier” of the jail, and footage from outside Epstein’s cell from 22 and 23 July 2019 “no longer exists”.
They also said the FBI had found that the footage was no longer available on the jail’s back-up video system “as a result of technical errors”.
The missing video was disclosed in a Manhattan federal court filing, in a case involving Epstein’s cell mate at the time.
One of Epstein’s lawyers, Marc Fernich, said the missing video “only adds to the unanswered questions and deepens the air of mystery surrounding (Epstein’s) death, feeding the perception that the public will never really know what happened and that the powers that be aren’t really interested in finding out”.
Prison officers responded at about 1.27am on 23 July 2019 to Epstein’s cell, prosecutors said, when the disgraced financier was discovered with bruises on his neck and then placed on suicide watch.
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Epstein later hanged himself on 10 August while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges, officials said.
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The disgraced financier’s suicide has led to a renewed focus on his circle of friends and associates
His death inside one of the most secure jails in America prompted a shakeup at the federal bureau of prisons, including the removal of its acting chief and the warden at MCC.
Two MCC prison officers were charged in November with falsifying records to cover up their alleged failure to check on Epstein in his final hours.
Attorney General William Barr said the investigation revealed a “series” of mistakes made that gave Epstein the chance to take his own life and that his suicide was the result of “a perfect storm of screw-ups”.
He said he had personally reviewed security footage from the night Epstein took his own life, which confirmed that no one entered the area where Epstein was housed on the night he died.
But Epstein’s lawyers and his brother Mark have disputed the official suicide by hanging verdict, believing instead that the 66-year-old died from being strangled rather than by suicide.
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Epstein died five weeks after his arrest on federal charges he trafficked dozens of girls as young as 14 for sex from at least 2002 to 2005.
In 2008 he was convicted in Florida of paying young girls for massages, but served just 13 months in jail under a secret plea deal struck with the then state prosecutor.
Despite his death, prosecutors have vowed to continue investigating any further allegations made against Epstein and to charge anyone who may have helped him.
Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email email@example.com in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK.