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Surveillance footage taken outside Jeffrey Epstein’s jail cell on the day of his first apparent suicide attempt has been permanently deleted, federal prosecutors say.
The sex offender was found semiconscious in his cell inside the Metropolitan Correctional Centre (MCC) in Manhattan in July, as he awaited trial over allegations of sex trafficking that threatened to see him behind bars for the rest of his life.
But, he was later taken off suicide watch, leading to a second apparent attempt in August in which he died, sparking a conspiracy theory that he was murdered, fuelled by the curious circumstances of his death.
Among those curiosities is, now, the deletion of the tape showing the coming and goings on the night of Epstein’s July suicide attempt, because MCC officials mistakenly recorded footage from a different floor of the federal facility.
The MCC "inadvertently preserved video from the wrong tier ... and as a result, video from outside the defendant's cell on July 22-23, 2019 no longer exists," federal prosecutors wrote in recently filed court papers.
The missing footage was discovered by the FBI last week, as the agency reviewed copies of video provided by the jail.
"After reviewing the video, it appeared to the government that the footage contained on the preserved video was for the correct date and time, but captured a different tier than the one where (the cell housing Epstein and his cellmate] was located because the preserved video did not show corrections officers responding to any of the cells seen on the video,” court papers read.
Questions have also been raised by Dr Michael Baden, the former chief medical examiner of New York City who was hired by the family to oversee the autopsy, who has suggested Epstein may have been murdered.
“I think the evidence points toward homicide rather than suicide,” Mr Baden said during an interview with Fox News last year, noting that some bones in Epstein’s neck were broken in a way that would suggest pressures inconsistent with a hanging.
In addition, the details surrounding the security within the Metropolitan Correctional Centre have raised questions.
Two guards on duty that evening have since been accused of shopping online and falling asleep at the time of Epstein’s death, and have since then been charged with falsifying records and conspiring to defraud the United States for their alleged cover-up after the fact.
Epstein was facing federal sex trafficking charges, after managing to receive a remarkably lenient sentence in 2008 after pleading guilty to soliciting and procuring prostitution in Florida, including from women who were allegedly minors at the time. During his 18-month sentence, Epstein was allowed to leave the jail for up to 12 hours a day, six days a week on “work release”, and was shown apparent preferential treatment compared to others with similar convictions.
The conspiracies surrounding the disgraced financier’s death have been fueled in no small part by his cultivation of rich and powerful friends, having had counted among his friends former president Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew.