NEW YORK • The New York City medical examiner has said that multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein's death in a federal jail cell was a suicide, confirming he had hanged himself.
Epstein's death had set off a wave of unfounded conspiracy theories, as people speculated online, without evidence, that he might have been killed to keep him from providing information to prosecutors about others in his social circle, including President Donald Trump, former president Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew of Britain.
But the chief medical examiner in New York City, Dr Barbara Sampson, on Friday ruled out foul play.
She released a statement saying that, after an autopsy and a "careful review of all investigative information", she had determined the cause of Epstein's death was "hanging" and the manner was "suicide".
Three of Epstein's lawyers, Mr Martin Weinberg, Mr Reid Weingarten and Mr Michael Miller, challenged the findings and vowed to conduct their own investigation.
"We are not satisfied with the conclusions of the medical examiner," said the lawyers, who had hired a private pathologist to observe the autopsy.
The medical examiner's determination came six days after Epstein, 66, was found dead in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in Manhattan, where he was awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges.
His suicide followed an apparent attempt to kill himself in late July and came 12 days after prison staff had recommended he be removed from suicide watch and returned to the wing in which he had been housed before.
Epstein's death is the subject of four federal investigations, including by the Justice Department's inspector-general and the FBI.
Attorney-General William Barr said there were "serious irregularities" in how prison officials handled his supervision.
The conspiracy theories surrounding Epstein's death were fuelled in part by a paucity of information from Bureau of Prison officials since his body was discovered.
The bureau issued one terse statement with little information about the circumstances of his death and has not given any information about Epstein's earlier apparent suicide bid.
Epstein had pleaded not guilty to his various charges and been denied bail.
Prosecutors in Manhattan said he lured dozens of underage girls into giving him erotic massages and engaging in other sexual acts in the early 2000s at his mansions in New York City and Palm Beach, Florida.
Ms Ghislaine Maxwell, 57, whose name emerged in connection with a previous case against Epstein, has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing.
Girls interviewed as part of that previous case, in Palm Beach, Florida, repeatedly described Ms Maxwell as the coordinator of Epstein's sex-trafficking operation.
Ms Maxwell's whereabouts have been something of a mystery for some time. More than a decade ago, police in Palm Beach sought unsuccessfully to interview her about the allegations against Epstein.
In the intervening years, Ms Maxwell has spent time living in London, New York and Paris, as well as on a variety of vessels in the Caribbean, and with friends in Southern California and Massachusetts, according to her friends and business associates and law enforcement officials.
The New York Post last Thursday published photos of Ms Maxwell sitting earlier in the week on the outdoor patio of an In-N-Out burger joint in the Universal City area of Los Angeles.
She was reading a book titled The Book Of Honour: The Secret Lives And Deaths of CIA Operatives.
According to Ms Maxwell's neighbours in Hickory Hill, Massachusetts, the Paris-born, Oxford-educated, New York socialite moved into a US$2.5 million (S$3.5 million) home on a 65,000 sq ft parcel of land in Sharksmouth Estate some time after the property changed hands in 2016.
The wooded, waterfront estate where Ms Maxwell apparently lived with a friend is exceptionally secluded - which perhaps explains its appeal to a woman alleged to have helped procure underage girls for Epstein.
Neighbours said she lived there with Mr Scott Borgerson, chief executive of CargoMetrics Technologies and an ocean conservation activist. In an interview last Wednesday, Mr Borgerson, a former Coast Guard officer, declined to say whether Ms Maxwell had lived there with him.
"My private life is my private life," he said, adding that he was glad to be home with his cat after a tiring work trip. In a text message, he commented on how, in the echo chamber of the Internet, "a rumour like this can go crazy so quickly".
Ms Maxwell went by "G" rather than her distinctive first name, neighbours said, and took walks to the waterfront, but kept largely to herself.
Meanwhile, a New York woman last Wednesday sued Ms Maxwell and three unnamed women who she said also allegedly recruited and groomed girls for Epstein.
The Justice Department has indicated that it will investigate Epstein's alleged co-conspirators.
NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST