The “DC Madam” who ran a call-girl ring for Washington’s power elite has hanged herself, apparently to avoid being sent to jail.

The “DC Madam” who ran a call-girl ring for Washington’s power elite has hanged herself, apparently to avoid being sent to jail.

Deborah Jeane Palfrey, 52, used a nylon rope to commit suicide in a shed outside her mother’s mobile home in Florida on Thursday – only two weeks after she was convicted of running a prostitution ring that served the upper echelons of Congress and the Bush Administration as well as officials from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Palfrey’s clients allegedly included a married Republican senator from Louisiana; a deputy secretary of state; a top adviser to Bill Clinton and the Pentagon consultant who coined the term “shock and awe” to describe the US strategy in the Iraq war.

At her trial last month she insisted that her business, Pamela Martin & Associates was a “legal, high-end erotic fantasy service” that sent college-educated young women to engage in “quasi-sexual” game-playing at $250 (£125) an hour.

She claimed that she was never aware that the 132 young women she hired from 1993 to 2006 actually had sex with her male clients.

Prosecutors said, though, that she had used male testers to make sure that the women were able to perform “appropriate prostitution activities”.

When a man agreed to pay $250 for 90 minutes with a woman, it was pretty clear that most men wanted sex, Daniel Butler, one of the prosecutors in the case, said during his closing arguments.

The jury found Palfrey guilty of running a prostitution ring that took in a total of about $2 million (£1 million) Palfrey – who spent 18 months in jail in California in the early 1990s for running a prostitution ring – faced a four-to-six year prison term after sentencing in July.

She had vowed repeatedly that she would never spend a day behind bars. “I sure as heck am not going to be going to federal prison for one day, let alone, you know, four to eight years,” she told ABC News last year.

She was out on bail awaiting sentencing and staying with her 76-year-old mother in a mobile home park in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

Her mother had woken up from a nap and gone outside to see why a tricycle kept in the shed had been moved. She found Palfrey hanging by a nylon rope from the ceiling of the shed, with two suicides notes nearby.

“They were both kind of tired, and the mom said I’m going to take a nap real quick. That was pretty much the last she talked to her,” Police Captain Jeffrey Young told a press conference.

It was the second suicide related to the case. One of Palfrey’s call girls, Brandy Britton, a former University of Maryland professor, killed herself in January before she could go on trial for prostitution.

Palfrey had sent shockwaves through Washington when she gave the ABC television network phone records revealing the clients in her “black book”. Louisiana senator David Ritter, a married father of four, issued a public apology. Randall Tobias, a deputy secretary of state who served as President Bush’s co-ordinator for foreign aid, resigned abruptly.

In court papers, Palfrey also named Harlan Ullman, one of the creators of the “shock and awe” strategy in Iraq, as a regular customer, along with Dick Morris, a former Bill Clinton adviser, who later issued a denial. Mr Ullman has said that the accusation “doesn’t deserve the dignity of a response”.

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