Caroline Flack took her own life after finding out she was definitely going to be prosecuted for assault and fearing the publicity that would come with a trial, a coroner has concluded.
Coroner Mary Hassell said the Love Island presenter’s alleged assault of boyfriend Lewis Burton “played out in the national press” following her arrest had a serious impact on her mental health.
During the inquest into her death, the star’s mother Christine Flack told the court her daughter “was not an abuser” and accused the police and prosecutors of having it “in for” her due to her “celebrity status”.
After the hearing, she paid tribute to a “beautiful, fun, opinionated, kind, loyal” woman who was “full of confidence”, but also “full of fears”.
Flack, 40, died at her flat in north London in February, just weeks before she was due to go on trial over the incident in December 2019.
The day before her death, she had found out prosecutors were definitely pressing ahead with the case – despite her hopes that an appeal by her lawyers would lead to it being dropped.
Her inquest at Poplar Coroner’s Court in east London heard that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) initially decided to caution the star – but charged her following an appeal by police.
Making her conclusion of suicide, the coroner said: “Although [Flack’s] 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.”
During the hearing, Mrs Flack confronted the detective inspector who appealed for her daughter to be charged rather than cautioned.
“If it had been… an ordinary person, you wouldn’t have prosecuted,” Mrs Flack told Detective Inspector Lauren Bateman.
“I just think you should be disgusted with yourself. There is nothing we can do to bring Caroline back. I hope in hindsight you do regret this.”
Deputy chief crown prosecutor Lisa Ramsarran told the court the code for prosecutors was correctly applied when charging Flack. DI Bateman also denied that she was motivated by Flack’s celebrity status to charge her.
Flack admitted hitting Mr Burton when officers were called to her home, saying she did so because she found out he was cheating on her, the inquest heard.
However, during her police interview there was no “clear” admission of guilt, DI Bateman and Ms Ramsarran told the court, which was one of the factors in the decision to charge rather than caution.
Other factors included the violence involved, that Mr Burton was asleep at the time of the alleged offence and that a caution is rare for a domestic violence case – which this incident was considered as.
DI Bateman told the court Flack had given different accounts about what happened on the night of her arrest.
Flack was taken to hospital following the incident and had self-harmed, the court heard.
Mr Burton, 28, had said he did not support Flack’s prosecution and in a statement read by the coroner he described how the last time he had seen her she was “very upset, in fact devastated”.
In a statement released after the coroner’s conclusion, Mrs Flack and Jody accused the CPS and police of attempting to “cover up” their part in the TV presenter’s death.
Paying tribute, they said: “She was like all of us and that is why she was loved by everyone who actually knew her.
“She did not hide from her mistakes and did not crow about her successes.
“Because she was successful and because she was so open about her life and her loves she became an easy target for cruel and spiteful people who, if they knew the pain they caused, would be ashamed.”
The CPS said: “We know this has been an extremely difficult period for the family and friends of Caroline Flack and our thoughts remain with them.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to provide detailed background into our handling of the case. It is our sincere hope this has assisted the coroner and Ms Flack’s family in understanding our decision making.”
Following Flack’s death, the Met Police referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) over the contact it had with the star, and the IOPC said no formal investigation was needed.
However, in April, the force received an official public complaint about officers’ previous contact with Flack and its Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) is now undertaking a review.
Senior officer Chief Superintendent Raj Kohli also issued a statement, saying: “We know this will have been an extremely difficult period for the bereaved family and friends of Ms Flack and our thoughts remain with them.
“We are also aware that this sad loss will have had a big impact on all of those who admired and followed Ms Flack over the years.”
Flack left behind her twin sister Jody, elder brother Paul, elder sister Elizabeth and her parents Ian and Christine.
Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK