Financier Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide while in custody. Picture: New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP/African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg - A South African-born woman said she was sent back to the country on a mission by billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein to recruit a friend to became one of his sex slaves.

Sarah Ransome backed out of the plan, claiming in court papers “she did not want to subject the other girl to the life of sexual servitude she said she found herself in”, the Daily Mail reported.

She was among 23 of the alleged paedophile’s victims who attended a hearing in a federal courtroom in New York City, US, this week.

“I would like to acknowledge and extend my gratitude to the prosecutors from the Southern District of New York for pursuing justice on behalf of the victims. Please, please finish what you have started,” she told the courtroom.

“We, the victims, are still here, prepared to tell the truth, and we all know he did not act alone. We are survivors, and the pursuit of justice should not abate,” said Ransome, telling how she was a victim of Epstein’s “international sex trafficking ring.”

Tuesday’s hearing was scheduled so the alleged victims could tell their stories before the case was dismissed.

Ransome has told her story before through a lawsuit she filed against the billionaire. This included her attempted swim from Epstein’s notorious “paedophile island” in Little St Thomas in the Caribbean, after her passport was stolen.

But Ransome was “brought back to land by a search party which included (alleged madam) Ghislaine Maxwell”, the UK’s Daily Mail reported this week.

Ransome says she was abused by Epstein in her early twenties.

Epstein, a 66-year-old financier who was friends with US President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Britain’s Prince Andrew, hanged himself in his Manhattan jail cell on August 10. He had been arrested on July 6 and pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking charges involving dozens of girls, some as young as 14.

“He showed the world what a depraved and cowardly human being he was by taking his own life,” Ransome said, as reported by Reuters this week.

Last year, Epstein settled a lawsuit against Ransome for an undisclosed amount. She sued him in a Manhattan federal court for sexually trafficking her between 2006 and 2007 and claimed he arranged for her to have sex with his friend, Harvard Law School professor and high-profile defence lawyer Alan Dershowtiz. He denied the allegations.

“Ransome was living in New York when she says she was targeted,” reported the Daily Mail. “She claimed in her lawsuit that she was procured by his female staff and taken to the island. He promised her that he would get her into Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, which had been her dream, when they first met, she said.

“He sent her to South Africa to recruit another woman and she refused, claiming in court papers that she did not want to subject the other girl to the life of sexual servitude she said she found herself in,” the Daily Mail reported.

“They phoned her parents in South Africa to tell them they were looking after her but, when she returned to the States in February 2007, was told by Maxwell to ‘immediately’ have sex with the paedophile. She fled the country three months later.”

Saturday Star