When guilty men kill themselves
Fred West killed himself in Birmingham Prison on the first day of 1995. I had worked on the story of the murders the whole of the previous year. The police in the case were disappointed: West had just come off suicide watch, and they had been keen to see him stand trial and face the evidence they’d gathered. Apparently, he was depressed by his wife’s rejection of him and he felt he was giving her his life. ‘Rest in peace where no shadow falls,’ he wrote in a suicide note. But it was all shadow. Every room in the Wests’ terrible house was in shadow and his garden was in shadow, and so was his mind. The world was filled with traces of the girls they harmed.
Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill girls, but he may have killed something in them. The evidence is that he trafficked them for sex and denied it, then accused them of lying. When guilty men kill themselves, are they acknowledging their guilt, or is it more like an act of self-pity? Epstein’s suicide in prison terminates a judicial process that he spent millions to disdain, but it also cancels a life in prison he was desperate to avoid. I wonder how his lawyers feel. (They wouldn’t return your calls, even if their entire morality depended on it.) Maybe they feel let down. Or free at last. Such are the complications of dependency.
But only days after writing about Epstein’s little black book for the London Review, hearing the news of his suicide, I think still of the friends. So many of them, for so long, enjoyed his private jet and his largesse with the girls. So many of them began to feel they’d made it in Manhattan when Jeffrey invited them over. They loved his money and loved what money could do in blurring the lines between joy and evil.