Jean-Luc Brunel, the former head of a French model agency who was accused of rape in the 1990s and later of supplying young girls to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, was found hanged in his Paris prison cell early Saturday. The French Penitentiary Administration confirmed his death in La Santé prison to The Washington Post.
The 75-year-old was found dead in his cell at around 1 a.m. Saturday during an overnight check by guards at the Paris prison, prosecutors told Le Monde. Brunel was being held as part of an ongoing investigation into the alleged rape of minors and trafficking of minors for sexual exploitation. Several models had accused him of sexual assault and rape, and French police had interviewed many potential witnesses in the case. Brunel had denied the allegations.
He was a close associate of Epstein’s — and the two men’s deaths were similar in nature. Epstein, 66, died by suicide in his prison cell in August 2019 while awaiting his own trial on federal sex trafficking charges.
Brunel’s attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment. They told Le Monde that the apparent suicide of their client “was not driven by guilt, but by a deep sense of injustice.”
“Jean-Luc Brunel [had] continued to proclaim his innocence,” the attorneys said.
Among his alleged victims was Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who previously said in court documents that Epstein pressured her to have sex with Brunel when she was a teenager.
“The suicide of Jean-Luc Brunel, who abused me and countless girls and young women, ends another chapter,” she tweeted. “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.”
Former model Thysia Huisman, 48, who accused Brunel of spiking her drink and raping her when she was 18 in 1991, also expressed her dismay. “This is a completely different ending without any real justice for his victims,” she tweeted this morning.
“I’m really disappointed, shocked and frustrated,” she later told The Post. “I wanted to see him in front of a judge, that would’ve been the best closure.”
One of several women who accused Brunel of sexual abuse in 2019, Huisman says she wants to show other victims of sexual violence that it is “rewarding and empowering to come forward about your abuser, that it is not for nothing and that in the end justice will be served.” She added that she takes some comfort in the consequences Brunel faced, even if they weren’t what she expected.
“He died in jail. It’s depressing, if you think about it,” she said. “So it’s also a kind of sentence.”
Brunel’s death comes days after Britain’s Prince Andrew settled the sexual abuse lawsuit brought by Giuffre who says she was trafficked to him by Epstein, a multimillionaire investor whose well-known associates also included Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, among others. The amount and details of the settlement between Andrew and Giuffre — who said she was recruited as a teenager by Epstein and his longtime paramour, Ghislaine Maxwell, in Palm Beach, Fla. — were not disclosed in a court filing this week.
Maxwell faces as much as 65 years in prison after being convicted in December of sex-trafficking charges for assisting Epstein in abusing young girls.
Attorney Brad Edwards, who represents Giuffre and other Epstein accusers, told The Post that he was struck by the timing of Brunel’s apparent suicide just days after his client’s settlement with Andrew this week.
“Rather than be held accountable, he just checked out,” he said of Brunel. “They’re both very selfish people, so if the world isn’t going to be what they want it to be, then there’s no sense in living.”
Brunel was a model talent scout for the Karin Models agency, which he went on to lead. When he was banned from the agency after a BBC report highlighting his alleged abuse, he moved to the United States. Through Maxwell, he was introduced to Epstein, who gave him funding to found Brunel’s U.S. agency, MC2 Model Management, according to the Guardian. Brunel, who is credited with discovering supermodels such as Christy Turlington and Milla Jovovich, became a frequent companion of Epstein’s whenever the financier traveled to France.
For years, several American models in Paris had accused Brunel of sexual misconduct — groping and other sexual advances, drugging women’s drinks, rape — in the hope that he would be stopped. But justice was considered elusive for Brunel’s alleged victims, much as it was for the women who accused Epstein of abuse only to see him serve just 13 months in jail more than a decade ago.
In December 2020, Brunel was arrested at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris shortly before boarding a plane for Dakar. French authorities said Brunel was a central figure in the probe into alleged sexual exploitation of women and girls by Epstein and his inner circle. Brunel, who was charged with raping minors over the age of 15 and sexual harassment, was released on bail last November but was ordered to return to prison while awaiting trial.
Edwards, who said he yet to speak with his clients about Brunel’s death, recalled the pained reactions from those he represented after Epstein’s death in 2019. He told The Post that Epstein’s accusers “all felt like something had been stolen from them” — and anticipated a similar reaction following Brunel’s death.
“Everybody was looking forward to accountability,” he said. “Anytime that they’re deprived in this way, it feels like a form of re-victimization.”