via Daily Mail

  • Jean-Luc Brunel, 76, was found hanging in his cell in La Santé, Paris, at 1am during a night time check in. The fashion agent was arrested at Charles de Gaulle airport in December 2020 while trying to fly to Senegal. He was suspected of being a member of infamous financier Jeffrey Epstein’s global underage sex ring. Ghislaine Maxwell’s family said they were ‘shocked’ by Brunel’s death and said they are ‘scared’ for her safety. Death in an alleged hanging will fuel conspiracy theories around the Epstein affair after he also died in prison. Brunel is thought to have been alone in the cell and there were no cameras to record his final hours 

Ghislaine Maxwell’s family have said they are ‘scared’ for her safety after Jeffrey Epstein’s French modelling agent friend Jean-Luc Brunel, who allegedly procured more than a thousand women and girls for the paedophile financier to sleep with, died today in an alleged prison suicide.

Prosecutors in Paris confirmed Brunel, who is not believed to have been on suicide watch, was found hanging in his cell in La Santé, in the south of the capital city, in the early hours of Saturday morning.

It comes days after Prince Andrew, 62, agreed to settle Virginia Roberts’s lawsuit accusing him of sex abuse after they met allegedly through Epstein and Maxwell. In the settlement, there was no admission of liability by Andrew, who has always denied the specific allegations.

Roberts accused Brunel, 76, of procuring more than a thousand women and girls for Epstein to sleep with and he was awaiting trial in France for raping minors.

Following Brunel’s death, Maxwell’s family described the news as ‘shocking’ and said they are scared for Maxwell’s safety at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where she is currently being held.

Speaking from his home in London, Maxwell’s brother Ian told the New York Post: ‘Another death by hanging in a high-security prison. My reaction is one of total shock and bewilderment.’

Mr Maxwell claimed that despite her psychiatrist advising ‘to the contrary’, his sister was ‘deemed a suicide risk’ and said she is woken up every 15 minutes in the night. He described it as ‘complete violation of prisoner rights and human rights’, insisting that Maxwell is not suicidal.

He added that it was ‘ironic’ that his sister was on suicide watch in prison, but Epstein and Brunel were not. 

In December of last year, Maxwell was found guilty of sex trafficking minors, giving way to federal prosecutors to bring her to justice for her involvement in helping Epstein with luring underage girls before he would sexually assault them.

Her team of four lawyers requested a federal judge to grant her a new trial, saying questions asked to a juror about sexual abuse violated Maxwell’s right to a fair trial, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Brunel’s death in an alleged hanging will fuel conspiracy theories around the Epstein affair after the financier also died in prison while awaiting trial in what authorities concluded was a hanging. 

Controversy over Epstein’s death has been fueled by the fact that prison video cameras at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correction Center were not running at the time Epstein died in the cell he shared with another inmate. 

Brunel is thought to have been alone at the time of his death and there were no cameras to record his final hours, according to an investigating source at La Santé – one of the toughest jails in France.

‘A night patrol found his lifeless body at about 1am,’ said an investigating source. ‘A judicial enquiry has been launched, and early evidence points to suicide.’

Following the news of his death, Virginia Roberts said she was ‘disappointed’ that she was not able to face Brunel at a ‘final trial to hold him accountable’ and added that his alleged suicide ‘ends another chapter’. 

Taking to Twitter following the news of his death on Saturday, she wrote: ‘The suicide of Jean-Luc Brunel, who abused me and countless girls and young women, ends another chapter.

‘I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to face him in a final trial to hold him accountable, but gratified that I was able to testify in person last year to keep him in prison.’

Another alleged victim, former Dutch model Thysia Huisman, said: ‘It makes me angry, because I’ve been fighting for years. 

‘For me, the end of this was to be in court. Now that whole ending – which would help form closure – is taken away from me.’

It was in December 2020 that Brunel was indicted after two days of interviews by an examining magistrate and specialist police from an anti-paedophilia unit.

He was arrested at the city’s Charles de Gaulle airport on while trying to board a plane to Dakar, Senegal, telling detectives ‘I’m going on holiday’. 

While CCTV is commonplace in the corridors and gateways of French prisons, the vast majority of cells are not under video surveillance. This is ensure a degree of privacy, and to make sure that European human rights legislation is not violated.

Inmates are sometimes known to record events using devices including mobile phones, but Brunel is thought to have been in a single occupancy cell, said the source.

‘There is an investigation going on to confirm all this, but at the moment it looks like he killed himself alone, and it was a routine patrol that found his body hanging,’ he said.

The source added: ‘There were no obvious fears for the prisoner’s health, and he was not on a suicide watch, having already been in prison for many months.’

The official enquiry into Brunel’s sudden death was on Saturday being carried out by offices from the 3rd Judicial Police district in Paris. An autopsy was set to be carried out, to establish the exact cause of death.

Forensic officers were meanwhile examining the cell where Brunel died. La Santé, which was built in the 19th Century, has housed some of the most dangerous prisoners in recent French history.

There is a so-called ‘VIP section’ where inmates include ‘super terrorist’ and mass killer Carlos the Jackal, whose real name is Ilich Ramírez Sánchez.

Brunel was originally indicted and placed in pre-trial detention in December 2020 for the ‘rape of a minor over 15 years old’ and harassing two other women.

He was also suspected of being a ‘pimp’ for Epstein, after becoming a close friend of the billionaire financier.

Brunel had been placed under the intermediate status of assisted witness for acts of ‘human trafficking’ and ‘exploiting minors for the sexual purposes.’

Brunel committed suicide because he was ‘crushed’ by the allegations against him, his defence lawyers said in a joint statement.

‘His distress was that of a 75-year-old man crushed by a media-judicial system which it should be time to question,’ said Mathias Chichportich, Marianne Abgrall and Christophe Ingrain.

‘Jean-Luc Brunel has continued to proclaim his innocence. He multiplied his efforts to prove it. His decision [to end his life] was not driven by guilt, but by a deep sense of injustice.’

Others involved in the ring include Epstein's ex-girlfriend, the British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, 59, who is currently in prison in the USA after being found guilty of sex trafficking. Pictured, Brunel with Manwell on Epstein's private island
Brunel is pictured with models who worked for his agency. The model scout's name appears frequently in the flight logs kept for Epstein's private jets and prison records show he visited Epstein 67 times when he was in jail

A Dutch model, Thysia Huisman, who was 18 when she first stayed with Brunel, said she was raped by him in 1991.

She is now one of at least four alleged victims represented by Anne-Claire Le Jeune, a Paris barrister, who said Brunel being in custody was a huge relief, because their complaints now ‘take on meaning,’ she said.

After news of Brunel’s death broke Ms Huidman said she felt disappointed by the ‘completely different ending without any real justice for his victims. 

Brunel was suspected of having been part of a global underage sex ring organised by the late American multi-billionaire Epstein, who committed suicide in 2019, while awaiting trial for numerous sex crimes.

Others involved in the ring include Epstein’s ex-girlfriend, the British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, 59, who is currently in prison in the USA after being found guilty of sex trafficking.

A French judicial enquiry into Brunel’s conduct was opened in August 2019, when prosecutors heard allegations that Brunel and the Queen’s second son Prince Andrew shared a lover.

Virginia Roberts Giuffre, an American, has told lawyers she was employed as a ‘sex slave’ when she was forced to sleep with the Duke of York after being trafficked to him at least three times when she was 17.

Almost all of the accusations leveled against Brunel were from the 1970s, 80s and 90s, meaning they fell outside the 20-year limit for prosecuting sex crimes in France.

This meant that Brunel was considered ‘untouchable’ by police who nicknamed him ‘The Ghost’ as he carried on living and working in the French capital, while frequently traveling abroad on scouting assignments and holidays.

But in November 2020, Giuffre responded to an online English language appeal by French magistrates for alleged victims to come forward.  

Ms Roberts Giuffre said she had ‘sexual relations with Brunel on several occasions’, between the ages of 16 and 19, according to legal papers filed in America and France.

‘Ms Giuffre now lives in Australia but responded to the appeal,’ said an investigating source. ‘She was interviewed remotely, and provided considerable evidence against Brunel.

‘She said that she was raped by Brunel in the early 2000s, including in 2001. This was a considerable breakthrough for the enquiry.’

It meant that the alleged crime was well within the statute of limitations, and therefore prosecutable. 

Officers were set to arrest Brunel in January 2020 following further enquiries, but on December 16 he was intercepted at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris with a one-way ticket to Dakar, capital of Senegal, in West Africa.

‘This led to his immediate arrest and he was placed in custody,’ said the source. ‘The multiple rape charges solely relate to the testimony of Virginia Giuffre, and not any of the other alleged rape victims.

‘The sexual harassment indictment is nothing to do with the Epstein case, and instead relates to incidents in 2016 following a complaint by another woman who has not gone public.’

The ‘multiple rapes’ of Giuffre – now a mother of three who was called Virginia Roberts before her marriage – were said to have mainly taken place at Epstein’s home on the private island of Little Saint James, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

Giuffre had produced sworn testimonies saying that both Brunel and Prince Andrew attacked her there.

According to French law, a French citizen such as Brunel can be tried in France for offences committed abroad.

Both Prince Andrew and Brunel vehemently denied these claims, with the Prince considered a key witness who both the Americans and the French wanted to interview in person.

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