Brunel was a close associate of Epstein's; the former financier and convicted sex offender's August 2019 death in prison while awaiting a federal sex trafficking trial was ruled a suicide. The two deaths shared striking similarities; French officials told the Miami Herald that Brunel's death appeared to be a suicide by hanging as well.
Attorneys for Brunel told Le Monde their client had "continued to proclaim his innocence," and said "his decision was not driven by guilt but by a deep sense of injustice."
Virginia Roberts Giuffre, one of the many women who have said Epstein abused them when they were teenagers, had also accused Brunel of sex crimes. Giuffre alleged in a court filing, according to Reuters, that Brunel recruited potential victims under the guise of hiring them for modeling, and took girls as young as 12 to the US to "farm them out to his friends, especially Epstein." He also allegedly took an active role in the abuse, with Giuffre saying she was made to have sexual contact with Brunel on many occasions.
In a tweet, Giuffre expressed her disappointment that — much like with Epstein — Brunel's death means he will never stand trial.
"The suicide of Jean-Luc Brunel, who abused me and countless girls and young women, ends another chapter," Giuffre said. "I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to face him in a final trial to hold him accountable, but gratified that I was able to testify in person last year to keep him in prison."
Thysia Huisman, a Dutch former model, had also accused Brunel of abuse, saying he had drugged and raped her when she was 18. In response to the news of his death, Huisman echoed Giuffre's sentiments.
“It makes me angry, because I’ve been fighting for years,” Huisman told the Associated Press. “For me, the end of this was to be in court. And now that whole ending — which would help form closure — is taken away from me.”
Brunel's death comes just days after Prince Andrew settled a lawsuit, for an undisclosed amount, that Giuffre had filed against him. Giuffre had accused the British royal of sexually abusing her numerous times when she was a minor, which he has denied.
In late December, Epstein's closest associate and longtime girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, was found guilty of federal sex trafficking charges. During the trial, four women testified that Epstein sexually abused them as teens and that Maxwell assisted in the grooming process and occasionally personally took part in the abuse.