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"Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself." The ARIAs moment that dragged up those wild conspiracy theories.

This story was first published on August 12, 2019, and has been updated. 

Content warning: This article contains mentions of suicide and sexual abuse that some readers may find triggering. For mental health crisis support, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

During Wednesday night’s ARIA Awards ceremony, Suffa of Australian hip hop group Hilltop Hoods stepped up to the microphone, having accepted the trophy for 2019’s Best Live Act.

After offering the standard thanks to the group’s wives and children, the veteran MC closed with a bizarre claim: “Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself.”

The eyebrow-raising statement referred to the death of a billionaire financier, who was found dead in his New York prison cell on August 10 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

The New York City medical examiner’s office ruled Epstein’s death a suicide. But the sex offender’s ties to princes, politicians and other powerful people has fuelled wild conspiracy theories to the contrary.

Within hours of his death, online theorists offered unsubstantiated speculation – including some retweeted by President Donald Trump – that the disgraced financier’s death wasn’t a suicide, or it was faked, to prevent him from criminally implicating his famous friends.

donald trump jeffrey epstein
Trump retweeted a conspiracy theory. Image: Twitter.

Conjecture resurged after Epstein's July 6 arrest on allegations that he orchestrated a sex-trafficking ring involving a number of underage girls. Several of his accusers have described being recruited by the wealthy financier with an offer of genuine employment, before being sexually abused by him and his circle of wealthy friends and acquaintances.

The combination created fertile ground for theories and misinformation to breed on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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Epstein, 66, had been denied bail and faced up to 45 years behind bars on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges unsealed last month. He had pleaded not guilty and was awaiting trial next year.

The high-profile acquaintances.

His relationships with Trump, former President Bill Clinton, and Prince Andrew, were at the centre of those online rumours and theories, many of which question what politicians knew about Epstein's alleged sex crimes.

Some online commentators, without any evidence, described his death as a "murder attempt".

"Men in high places want Epstein dead," one Twitter use wrote.

Both #ClintonBodyCount and #TrumpBodyCount were trending on the platform in August, and there were also many people speculating about the role of the Royal family.

Trump's son Don Jr shared a conspiracy theory about the conspiracy theories, suggesting that Twitter was purposely trending one higher than the other.

Hours after Epstein's death, as #EpsteinMurder was also trending worldwide, the president joined Twitter speculation around Epstein's death while under the federal government's watch.

Trump, who rose to conservative prominence by falsely claiming Obama wasn't born in the US, retweeted unsubstantiated claims about Epstein's death.

Other theories, however, have been easily debunked.

For example, days after his arrest, online memes and Facebook statuses wrongly claimed the Obama administration, in order to protect former President Clinton, forged a once-secret deal in 2008 in Florida that allowed him to plead guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution to avoid more serious charges. The deal was actually executed before President Barack Obama took office, under former President George W Bush.

Meanwhile, a manipulated photo, shared by thousands on Twitter and Facebook, falsely claimed to show Epstein with Trump and a young Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter.

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Both Clinton and Trump have denied being privy to Epstein's alleged scheme, as has Prince Andrew.

Prior to his death, The Quicky investigated the Jeffrey Epstein case. Post continues below audio.

Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Clinton spokesman Angel Urena said the former president "knows nothing about the terrible crimes Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to in Florida some years ago, or those with which he has been recently charged in New York".

He said that, in 2002 and 2003, Clinton took four trips on Epstein's plane - nicknamed the Lolita Express - with multiple stops, and that staff and his Secret Service detail travelled on every leg.

In 2015, now-defunct news site Gawker published flight records suggesting Clinton had made at least a dozen separate flights on the plane.

Fox News in 2016 reported to have seen records suggesting the former president took at least 26 trips.

Donald Trump.

jeffrey-epstein-trump
Epstein had ties to numerous high-profile figures including US President Donald Trump, former president Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew. Image: Getty.

Trump has acknowledged knowing Epstein but said he "had a falling out with him a long time ago".

Trump praised his former friend in an interview with New York magazine in 2002.

"I've known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy," Trump said.

"He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it - Jeffrey enjoys his social life."

Democratic 2020 presidential candidates Beto O’Rourke and Cory Booker both slammed the President's retweet in interviews with CNN.

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"This is another example of our president using this position of public trust to attack his political enemies with unfounded conspiracy theories," O’Rourke said.

"He is giving life to not just conspiracy theories but really whipping people up into anger and worse against different people in this country," said Booker.

The Royals.

Prince Andrew this month gave a televised interview to the BBC in which he denied allegations that he'd had sexual relations with a teenager who'd been trafficked by his friend, Epstein.

According to the Miami Heraldalleged victim Virginia Giuffre worked at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club when she was introduced to, and began to be sexually abused by, Epstein.

Giuffre alleged in court documents Epstein forced her to have sex with Prince Andrew in a number of places including New York, London and on a private island. Public records and flight logs obtained by The Sunday Times suggest the Prince was in the same place as Giuffre on the three occasions she claims they had sex.

In 2010, Prince Andrew attended a party at his friend Jeffrey Epstein’s New York City Mansion. Epstein, a US multimillionaire and sex offender, had been released from prison just months before. According to the Palace, the pair had not spoken since.

Some conspiracy theorists pointed to the royal family, suggesting - without proof - that they were somehow implicated in Epstein's death. Many referenced the well-known conspiracy surrounding Princess Diana's death in 1997.

Who's buying into the conspiracies?

Conspiracies are all over social media, with thousands of people from around the world buying into a number of them.

Despite a lack of evidence, US President Trump and a number of other politicians also took to social media after Epstein's death to question the circumstances.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, now a lawyer for Trump, tweeted out several questions.

"Who was watching? What does camera show? ... Follow the motives," Giuliani tweeted.

Lynne Patton, a senior official with the Department of Housing and Urban Development suggested on Instagram that Hillary Clinton was behind his death.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Hillary’d!! ???? P.S. Let me know when I’m supposed to feel badly about this... #VinceFosterPartTwo

A post shared by ???????? lynnepatton (@lynnepatton) on

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The speculation was only fuelled by Dr. Michael Baden, a forensic pathologist hired by Epstein’s brother, who argued that the injuries found on Epstein’s neck were more consistent with homicide than suicide.

However, Attorney General William Barr told AP this week that surveillance footage from the night of Epstein's death shows that no one accessed the area where his cell was located.

The FBI and the US Inspector General are continuing to investigate the systemic failures that led to the suicide.

So far, two prison guards have been charged with conspiracy and falsifying records. Prosecutors will allege that Tova Noel, 31, and Michael Thomas, 41, made false statements in jail logs to make it seem as though they performed mandated checks on Epstein and other detainees in their care at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. Instead, they allegedly napped, browsed the internet and sat at their desks.

The men are due to face trial in April 2020.

Suicide watch?

Epstein's death came just a day after several documents providing more extensive details on how an alleged sex trafficking network operated between 2002 and 2005 were unsealed on Friday, August 9.

Epstein was placed on suicide watch after an apparent suicide attempt last month, though US media including The New York Times reported the watch had been removed a few days before he died.

Conspiracy theories then began circulating about why the decision to remove it was made, with many suggesting it was done either to allow him to end his own life or to make it easier for someone else to do it for him.

A lawyer for Epstein, Marc Fernich, said at the time that prosecutors, reporters and court officials have "blood on their hands".

Epstein had pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy and was denied bail.

-With AAP.

If this article has raised issues for you, please seek professional help and contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.

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