The death in custody of US financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was awaiting trial on charges sex trafficking of minors, has triggering outcry over how it was allowed to happen.
Having previously attempted suicide, Epstein should have been under close watch and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched a probe into how he was able to kill himself.
Epstein, a convicted paedophile who befriended numerous politicians and celebrities over the years, was found unresponsive in his cell around 6:30am on Saturday at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York from "an apparent suicide," the US Department of Justice said. It followed an apparent suicide attempt last month.
Several of Epstein’s accusers said Saturday they’re disappointed that the financier won’t have to face them in court or serve a long prison sentence if convicted.
Conspiracy theories started to emerge immediately following his death and were circulated widely on social media, with some retweeted by US President Donald Trump.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, said it was "way too convenient" that Epstein would no longer be able to incriminate others.
"What a lot of us want to know is, what did he know?" Mr de Blasio told reporters in Iowa.
"How many other millionaires and billionaires were part of the illegal activities that he was engaged in?
"Well, that information didn't die with Jeffrey Epstein. That needs to be investigated, too."
Epstein, a wealthy hedge fund manager, 66, had been charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors. He denied the charges, but faced up to 45 years in prison – effectively the rest of his life – if convicted.
His death came a day after hundreds of pages of court documents were released that revealed new allegations against him and some of his high-profile associates.
US Attorney General Bill Barr said he was "appalled" at the death and instructed the Justice Department's inspector general to also probe the circumstances.
"Mr Epstein's death raises serious questions that must be answered," Mr Barr said.
A range of conspiracy theories about the death have been shared online, fuelled by Epstein’s ties to princes, politicians and other famous and powerful people.
Online theorists offered unsubstantiated speculation – some retweet by Mr Trump, who has himself acknowledged knowing Epstein but said he “had a falling out with him a long time ago”.
Days after his arrest, online memes and Facebook statuses wrongly claimed that the Obama administration, in order to protect former President Bill Clinton, forged a once-secret deal in 2008 in Florida that allowed Epstein to plead guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution to avoid more serious charges. The deal was actually executed before Obama took office, under the former president George W Bush.
"Died of SUICIDE on 24/7 SUICIDE WATCH? Yeah right! How does that happen," a tweet retweeted by Mr Trump on Saturday read. "#JefferyEpstein had information on Bill Clinton & now he’s dead I see #TrumpBodyCount trending but we know who did this! RT if you’re not Surprised."
Meanwhile, a manipulated photo, shared by thousands on Twitter and Facebook, falsely claimed to show Epstein with Mr Trump and a young Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter.
The former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, now an attorney for the president, tweeted several questions about Epstein’s death.
“Who was watching? What does camera show? … Follow the motives,” Mr Giuliani tweeted on Saturday afternoon.
Epstein’s suicide was probably recorded by jail cameras, according to Preet Bharara, the former federal prosecutor in Manhattan.
“One hopes it is complete, conclusive, and secured,” he tweeted.