Jean-Luc Brunel found dead in French jail

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According to the Paris prosecutor's office, a modelling agent close to disgraced US financier Jeffrey Epstein was found dead Saturday in his French jail cell.

Victims of alleged abuse expressed shock and dismay at the agent's immunity. After Epstein committed suicide in 2019 while awaiting sex-trafficking charges, they said his death was doubly tragic.

The Paris police are looking into Brunel's death. His death was not made public, and Brunel's lawyers made no comment.

Brunel denied any wrongdoing and said he would cooperate with investigators. Brunel's lawyers had repeatedly requested his release pending trial, citing detention conditions.

As a result of the U.S. sex-trafficking charges against Epstein, Brunel was detained at Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport in 2020.

Brunel, a frequent Epstein companion, was considered vital to the French investigation into alleged sexual exploitation of women and girls. Epstein lived in Paris and frequently visited France.

Since the French investigation began in 2019, multiple victims have spoken to police, expressing frustration with the investigation's slow pace.

Thysia Huisman, one of them, was "shocked" by Brunel's death.

"It enrages me because I've been fighting for years," Huisman, a former model who claimed Brunel raped her as a teen, told the AP.

"This ended up in court for me. And now that ending — that would have given me closure — is gone."

Anne-Claire Lejeune, a lawyer for Huisman and other victims, said other women in the case agree.

She doubted a trial would occur because Brunel was so central to the case. She is also concerned that Brunel's death will prevent his accusers from receiving official victim status.

The investigation has "freed up women to talk about it," she said. This is a difficult step that takes courage and strength.

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