A succession of women who said Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused them at a young age voiced anger and defiance in a packed New York courtroom today, some lamenting that the financier's suicide deprived them of the opportunity to obtain justice.

"The fact that I will never have a chance to face my predator in court eats away at my soul," accuser Jennifer Araoz said during the hearing before US District Judge Richard Berman, who let the women testify despite the fact that Epstein's death meant he would never face a trial.

"I will not let him win in death," another woman, Chauntae Davies, told the court.

The statements, with the women expressing raw emotion and sometimes holding back tears, came less than three weeks after Epstein was found dead in a Manhattan prison where he was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges involving dozens of girls as young as 14.

Federal prosecutors asked the judge to formally dismiss their case against Epstein because of his death but said the government's investigation into potential co-conspirators was ongoing.

One after another, the accusers detailed what they said were Epstein's actions against them years ago when they were teenagers.

In all, 16 women testified, including six who did so without giving their names, and lawyers read statements from seven other women.

Another of the women, Sarah Ransome implored prosecutors to hold Epstein's co-conspirators responsible, telling them, "Please, please finish what you started. We all know he did not act alone."

Epstein, who once counted US President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Britain's Prince Andrew as friends, was arrested on 6 July and pleaded not guilty.

The wealthy 66-year-old money manager was found dead on 10 August in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in Lower Manhattan. A post-mortem examination concluded that he taken his own life.

Explaining why he gave the women and their lawyers an opportunity to address the court, the judge said it was "both because of their relevant experiences and because they should always be involved before, rather than after, the fact".

At the end of the hearing, Judge Berman said "everyone has benefited greatly" from hearing from them.

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