Page last updated at 21:51 GMT, Thursday, 1 May 2008 22:51 UK

'DC Madam' found dead in Florida

Deborah Jean Palfrey arrives at the Federal Court House in Washington, DC,  April 30, 2007 (File picture)
Ms Palfrey's agency was used by a number of senior US officials

Deborah Jean Palfrey, the US woman recently convicted for her role as the head of a Washington DC escort agency, has committed suicide, police say.

Ms Palfrey, often referred to as "the DC Madam", was found hanged in a shed next to her mother's house in Florida.

She was convicted on 15 April of running a prostitution ring, money laundering and mail fraud.

The case became famous because of the prominent officials - including Senator David Vitter - who had used the agency.

Suicide note

Ms Palfrey maintained that she had had no knowledge of her escorts engaging in sex acts with their clients.

But on 15 April, after hearing testimony from a number of the agency's former employees and clients, a federal jury found her guilty on all counts.

Archive footage of 'DC Madam'

She faced a maximum 55-year prison term, but was free pending sentencing on 24 July.

Police said that Ms Palfrey had left a suicide note, but did not disclose its contents.

"This is a tragic news and my heart goes out to her mother," said Preston Burton, the lawyer who represented Ms Palfrey in her trial.

This would be the second time that someone involved in the scandal has committed suicide.

In January, Brandy Britton, a professor at the University of Maryland as well as an employee of the escort service, killed herself before she was due to face trial on prostitution charges.

Mr Vitter, a Republican Senator from Louisiana who is married with four children, faced calls to resign when details of his dealings with the escort agency first emerged.

The senator apologised for what he described as a "very serious sin", but refused to comment further.

Other patrons of the agency - known as Pamela Martin and Associates - included Nasa officials, top military officers, World Bank and International Monetary Fund executives, as well as the head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Randall Tobias, who stepped down after being named as a client.

'DC Madam' vows to name clients
30 Apr 07 |  Americas
US woman 'to share escort files'
13 Mar 07 |  Americas

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