FILE - This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry, shows Jeffrey Epstein. Federal prosecutors offered a plea deal to two correctional officers responsible for guarding Epstein on the night of his death, but the officers have declined the offer, people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. (New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP, File)

French police ratchet up evidence search in Epstein probe

November 15, 2019 - 7:06 am

PARIS (AP) — French police are launching a fresh appeal for witnesses and victims to come forward to aid their probe of Jeffrey Epstein and allegations that one of the financier’s associates drugged and raped young models.

Police hope the new appeal issued Friday will have a broader reach than a similar call for witnesses they issued on Facebook and Twitter on Sept. 11.

Women who say they were raped and sexually assaulted by one of Epstein’s associates, French modeling agent Jean-Luc Brunel, had this week told The Associated Press they were disappointed with the limited scope of police efforts to track down witnesses.

Brunel has denied wrongdoing and has said via his lawyer he is willing to talk to investigators.

Police commissioner Philippe Guichard, whose office is leading the French probe, acknowledged in an AP interview Friday that their previous appeal for witnesses, worded only in French, had had limited success. The new appeal was also being issued in English, he said.

“The witnesses and the victims tell us that they had trouble identifying us and finding the number and reaching us to give evidence,” he said.

He also said the evidence search had been hampered by a reluctance to talk in the “closed world” of modeling.

“We imagine that potential victims don’t want to speak, to report crimes, because they must feel that, ‘If I say something, will I keep my job?’” he said.

The French probe was launched in August after Epstein took his life while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.

Thysia Huisman, one of the women who has testified to French police that she was drugged and raped by Brunel in 1991 at age 18, welcomed the new police effort to amplify the search for witnesses. She’d been among those who previously told the AP that the police needed to do more.

“That’s great,” she told the AP on Friday, adding that the September appeal, “on Twitter in French, once, is not enough to make people come forward.”

She said the use of English in the latest appeal might help reach models and former models who travel frequently and who likely don’t speak French.

“Let’s wait and see what happens,” she said. “I hope it is going to change something.”

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