Television presenter Caroline Flack was “seriously let down by the authorities” and “hounded” by the press over her forthcoming trial in the weeks before she killed herself, her inquest has heard.
The 40-year-old, well known for hosting Love Island and The X Factor, feared her life and career were “falling apart” and she suffered an acute deterioration in her mental health after being charged with assaulting her boyfriend Lewis Burton in December 2019.
She attempted suicide but believed prosecutors would drop the case, the inquest into her death heard.
However, prosecutors said there was public interest in pursuing the “domestic violence” case, and informed her legal team on February 13 2020.
Flack was said to have met with defence solicitors the following day, and she was found hanged at her home in Stoke Newington, north-east London, on February 15.
Flack’s mother Chris and twin sister Jody both outlined concerns they had about the presenter, accusing the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) of a “show trial” based on her celebrity.
Flack denied the assault but told friends she would rather go to prison than have her private life forensically examined.
Her mother could be seen weeping on video link as her statement was read during the inquest at Poplar Coroner’s Court on Wednesday.
She said: “I believe Caroline was seriously let down by the authorities and in particular the CPS for pursuing the case.
“I believe this was a show trial.
“Being well known should not allow special treatment, but should not allow making an example of someone.”
Lisa Ramsarran, a deputy chief Crown prosecutor in north London, told the inquest prosecutors determined the public interest to charge Flack with assault had not been met, on the basis that Flack had made an admission, so they suggested handing her a caution instead.
However, the police appealed, and it was then decided to be in the public interest to authorise a charge of assault by beating.
Ms Ramsarran told the inquest prosecutors 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.
She was later assessed in the psychiatric unit of a hospital, but told medics she was not suffering from mental health issues at the time, Ms Ramsarran said.
She added: “Her risk was deemed at that time to be ‘low’.”
The inquest heard Mr Burton did not support the prosecution, although Flack’s mother alleged it was he who leaked a blood-stained image of the December crime scene to a former girlfriend, who passed it on to the press.
Twin sister Jody said she believed Flack tried to kill herself in December, ahead of her first appearance in court for assault.
She said: “I believe the shame… was too much to deal with.
“Her life and reputation she worked hard to build was falling apart… because of a false accusation.
“It was our belief it would not be happening to her if she wasn’t in the public eye.
“At worst, her career and reputation, so precious to her, had been taken away.”
Ms Flack added: “Caroline spent the last few months of her life hiding inside, scared of the abuse.
“Caroline seemed very sad the day before her death – she seemed to have lost her fight.”
Friends said Flack also sent them a message the night before she died saying she was going to kill herself.
They discovered her on her sofa having swallowed some tablets and called the emergency services.
However, paramedics were unable to persuade Flack to attend hospital, the inquest heard, nor were they able to section her as she was already in a safe space – her home.
Flack was said to have been angry at the friends for contacting emergency services because she was worried about her personal details being made public.
The friends left the following morning.
She was discovered hanged a few hours later, with paramedics finding a handwritten note on an open magazine speaking about wanting to “find harmony” with her boyfriend.
Mr Burton, in his witness statement, said Flack was “very upset” the last time he saw her, although it was not stated when this was.
He said: “She was very upset, in fact devastated, she was not in a good place emotionally.
“Sometimes she talked about taking her own life when she was extremely upset.
“The media were constantly bashing her character, writing hurtful stories… generally hounding her daily.
“What was worrying her most was the police case and losing her presenting job on Love Island, plus not being able to see me.”
Her death prompted an outpouring of sorrow from celebrity friends, colleagues and fans, who referenced one of Flack’s social media posts from December in which she urged people to “be kind”.
The inquest was adjourned to conclude on Thursday.
Her suicide 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.
Miss Gradon’s boyfriend Aaron Armstrong, 25, died three weeks after he found his girlfriend.
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