A modeling agent accused of being an accomplice of Jeffrey Epstein was found hanged in his Paris jail cell Saturday. French prosecutors said that an investigation into the death of Jean-Luc Brunel, 75, had begun, but that early signs suggested it was suicide, the Guardian reports. He had been hanged with bedsheets in Santé prison, officials told CNN. Several models have said they were raped by Brunel, who was arrested in December 2020 on charges including rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and human trafficking "for the purposes of sexual exploitation." Prosecutors, who said the victims included minors, some of them younger than 15, were preparing the case for trial.
The case against Brunel sprang from the investigations of Epstein, whose death in a jail cell also was ruled a suicide. Virginia Giuffre, who has said she was abused by Epstein and forced into sex with Brunel, said Saturday that his death closed "another chapter," tweeting, "I'm disappointed that I wasn't able to face him in a final trial to hold him accountable." Thysia Huisman, who accused Brunel of drugging and raping her when she was an 18-year-old model, told the BBC, "It's a huge disappointment he will never face a judge." Brunel had denied all accusations. His lawyers, who consider his death to have been suicide, issued a statement saying, "His decision was not driven by guilt but by a deep sense of injustice."
Brunel established himself as a modeling agent in France in the 1970s, per the New York Times, then met Epstein after expanding to the US. Court documents show Giuffre said Brunel offered jobs to girls as young as 12 in France, then brought them to the US, where he'd "farm them out to his friends, especially Epstein." A lawyer for Huisman and other accusers expressed concern that with the case against Brunel over, the women might not be officially recognized as victims, per the AP. "To rebuild yourself," Huisman said, "that is one of the essential steps." (Read more Jeffrey Epstein stories.)