Epstein death ‘looks like murder’
The body of disgraced billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who was found dead in his Manhattan prison cell in August, bore telltale signs of homicide despite an official suicide ruling, a former New York City medical examiner has claimed.
The bombshell claim by Dr Michael Baden is certain to reignite suspicions that surfaced immediately after Epstein, who was awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges involving underage girls, was discovered dead in his cell on August 10.
Dr Baden, a pioneering forensic pathologist, was hired by Epstein's brother to observe the autopsy, Fox News reports.
He said the findings of the autopsy were more consistent with homicidal strangulation than suicidal hanging.
Epstein, 66, had two fractures on the left and right sides of his Adam's apple, as well as one fracture above the Adam's apple, said Dr Baden, who has examined more than 20,000 bodies.
"Those three fractures are extremely unusual in suicidal hangings and could occur much more commonly in homicidal strangulation," he said, adding that the three fractures were "rare".
Dr Baden, who probed cases involving O.J. Simpson, President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and record producer Phil Spector in his career, said: "I've not seen in 50 years where that occurred in a suicidal hanging case."
He explained that if a person weighed 120 pounds (55kg) and their head weighed 10 pounds (4.5kg), there would be 110 pounds of pressure on the neck at the jaw during a hanging. But, if someone put a hand around a person's neck and squeezed, that could double or even triple the pressure on the neck.
There were also haemorrhages in Epstein's eyes that were common in homicidal strangulation and uncommon, though not unheard of, in suicidal hangings, the forensic pathologist said.
"The prominent haemorrhage in the soft tissues of the neck next to the fractures is evidence of a fresh neck compression that could have caused the death," Dr Baden said.
Epstein was found hanging in his prison cell at the high-security Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan and was later declared dead, investigators said.
Prosecutors alleged that the previously convicted sex offender paid girls as young as 14 hundreds of dollars for massages before he molested them in his homes in New York and Palm Beach, Florida between 2002 and 2005.
Dr Baden said the ligature, or item used to tie something tightly, allegedly was made from a sheet that had been twisted and put around Epstein's neck. Evidence on the cloth material could help prove whether or not someone else was involved in Epstein's death.
"Whoever it is would have their DNA all over the ligature," he said. "We don't have those results yet," he added, saying those results "should be reported quickly to give an idea and lessen the speculation."
New York City Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson ruled Epstein's cause of death to be a suicide by hanging.
"It appears that this could have been a mistake," Dr Baden said. "There's evidence here of homicide that should be investigated, to see if it is or isn't homicide."
Epstein previously was discovered on July 23 - over two weeks before his death - on the floor of his prison cell with marks around his neck, after which he was placed on suicide watch.
He was taken off suicide watch a week later and put in another cell with a roommate, Dr Baden said - but the second inmate was taken out a few days after that, leaving Epstein alone in the cell.
On the day Epstein was found dead, the prison security had experienced a "total breakdown" in procedure, according to Dr Baden.
"It was determined that the two guards who were supposed to be working in that area of the prison had allegedly fallen asleep and hadn't made their 30-minute rounds for more than three hours," he said.
Security cameras that were supposed to be recording the cell and the hallway outside, to see who went in and out, both apparently malfunctioned.
Through his five decades of experience, Epstein's death is not straightforward, Dr Baden said.
"It doesn't give you the answer," he said. "It's not a typical hanging case."