Caroline Flack died by suicide after learning of prosecution, inquest finds

Coroner says fact that assault case was set to ‘play out in press’ was ‘incredibly difficult for her’

 

Television presenter Caroline Flack died by suicide after discovering she was going to be prosecuted for allegedly assaulting her boyfriend and feared the press intrusion that would follow, a coroner has ruled.

Coroner Mary Hassell said the fact the alleged assault case was “played out in the national press” was “incredibly difficult for her”, and she feared the loss of her hard-fought career.

The 40-year-old former Love Island and X Factor host was found dead at her home in Stoke Newington, northeast London, on February 15th, 2020.

The previous day, she had discovered prosecutors were going to press ahead with the assault charge after she hit Lewis Burton with her phone while he slept over concerns he had been cheating on her.

Friends said she was expecting it to be dropped after her lawyers applied for the case to be thrown out.

Returning a determination of suicide at Poplar Coroner’s Court on Thursday, the coroner said: “Although her general fluctuating (mental) state was a background and important in her death, I find the reason for her taking her life was she now knew she was being prosecuted for certainty, and she knew she would face the media, press, publicity - it would all come down upon her.

“To me, that’s it in essence.”

Weeping, Flack’s mother Chris Flack told the coroner via videolink: “I totally agree, I think you got it spot on.”

In a statement after the hearing, Mrs Flack hit out at those who “took advantage” of her “loyal” daughter.

She said: “Many people loved and supported Caroline, they know who they are and I thank them all.

“Many people pretended to love Caroline and took advantage of her kindness and they know who they are.

“Caroline, you were loved. I love you.

“Those that would have harmed, [they] can’t touch you now.”

Mrs Flack had accused the police and prosecutors of having it “in for” her daughter, accusing them of taking her to court due to her “celebrity status”.

She said her daughter killed herself as a consequence of a Detective Inspector’s personal decision to appeal against the plan to give a caution for assault.

Mrs Flack accused prosecutors of wanting to proceed with the case, despite concerns about the 40-year-old’s mental health.

Mrs Flack told deputy chief Crown prosecutor Lisa Ramsarran on Thursday: “After listening to you and the first lady (the Detective Inspector), I feel even more that you had it in for Caroline.

“I now know how Caroline felt and it is not very nice.”

Ms Ramsarran said the code for prosecutors was correctly applied, while both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service said they would not do anything differently.

Flack admitted hitting Mr Burton when officers were called to her home in London in December 2019, saying she did so because she found out he was cheating on her, the inquest heard.

Prosecutors decided to charge Flack with assault after the Detective Inspector on duty at the time, contested their initial decision.

The inquest heard prosecutor Kate Weiss reviewed the decision to charge Miss Flack a week after the assault.

She cited various factors, such as the violence involved, that Mr Burton was sleeping, that a caution is rare for a domestic violence case, and that police said Flack showed no remorse in interview, when coming to the conclusion that a caution was not appropriate.

Ms Weiss wrote: “In light of these factors, I believe a caution is not appropriate.”

Coroner Ms Hassell said she understood if Flack’s family saw the review document and thought it “gives a flavour of wanting to find reasons to continue the prosecution rather than looking at this afresh”.

The coroner said: “It would be easy to gain an impression from this that for whatever reason Caroline isn’t liked – ‘She’s a celebrity and she must be dealt with severely’.

“I can understand why that impression could be gained by this document.”

Ms Ramsarran replied: “I don’t share your view that we are treating this defendant any different from anyone else.”

The inquest heard Flack’s mental health deteriorated and she killed herself in February 2020, weeks before she was due to stand trial.

In an impassioned examination of the Detective Inspector’s evidence, Mrs Flack said: “If it had been... an ordinary person, you wouldn’t have prosecuted.

“This girl killed herself because you put an appeal through.”

The Detective Inspector denied the coroner’s suggestion that she was motivated by Flack’s celebrity status to charge her.

The Detective Inspector: “I was not biased and I treat everyone the same.”

The inquest heard Flack was found naked and covered in blood with a self-imposed cut to her wrist when police arrived on the scene of the alleged assault in December, and told officers: “I hit him (Mr Burton), he was cheating on me.”

On Wednesday, friends described how Flack had serious concerns about her trial in March, but had met with her lawyers on February 14th when she thought the case might be dropped.

However, it was then that her legal team outlined the CPS’s decision, made the previous day, to go ahead with court action.

Flack was found dead at her home the following day.

Prosecutor Ms Ramsarran said the CPS looked at Flack’s mental health when the case was first reviewed, including evidence that the television personality self-harmed at the crime scene when she allegedly assaulted Mr Burton.

However, it was decided it was in the public interest to authorise a charge of assault by beating, particularly considering the domestic violence allegation.

Her death prompted an outpouring of sorrow from celebrity friends, colleagues and fans, who referenced one of the former Strictly winner’s social media posts from December in which she urged people to “be kind”.

Her death was the latest connected to Love Island, following the deaths of contestants Mike Thalassitis (26) in March 2019 and Sophie Gradon (32) in June 2018.

Ms Gradon’s boyfriend Aaron Armstrong (25) died three weeks after he found his girlfriend had died. – PA

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