Former Love Island and X Factor presenter Caroline Flack left a handwritten note mentioning her boyfriend at the scene of her death, an inquest has heard.
The broadcaster, 40, was found dead at her home in Stoke Newington, north-east London, on February 15 this year.
She had been due to stand trial the following month for assaulting her boyfriend Lewis Burton – a charge she denied.
The inquest, before coroner Mary Hassell at Poplar Coroners’ Court in east London, was initially opened and adjourned on February 19 and previously heard Ms Flack was found “lying on her back”.
She was declared dead at the scene and her body was identified by her twin sister Jody Flack, who watched Wednesday’s hearing via videolink along with mother Chris Flack.
The first witness statement read at the hearing was that of Stephen Teasdale, father of Ms Flack’s friend Louise, who said he went to the scene after Jody Flack phoned to say she could not get in to her sister’s address.
He said: “We came to the flat and tried to force entry. We thought about phoning the police but knew the landlady… We got the key and let ourselves into the flat.”
Mr Teasdale said he found Ms Flack’s lifeless body, which was hanged. He said: “I brought her (down) and Jody started CPR.
“We were giving CPR for somewhere between five and 10 minutes, then the police took over.”
Paramedic David O’Toole said he entered the property later and saw two women distraught on a sofa. He said Ms Flack appeared to have been “dead for a number of hours”. He said the women said they last saw her alive at 10.30am that day.
One of the crew pointed to a handwritten note placed on an open magazine on the coffee table. It referenced, positively, “Lewis”, believed to be Ms Flack’s boyfriend Lewis Burton.
Pc Tim Child said there was evidence of suicide attempts elsewhere in the property.
Detective sergeant Jonathan Maharaj said there was evidence of “a number of calls” made and received on Ms Flack’s mobile phone and that she conducted searches for “people who blame” as well as for suicide.
A post-mortem examination found no traces of alcohol but the presence of zopiclone, used for insomnia, just above the therapeutic range. Diazepam was present in a therapeutic amount.
Pathologist Professor Michael Sheaff found Ms Flack died from hanging.
Tamsin Lewis, psychiatrist and lifestyle medicine practitioner in Mayfair, said in a statement that she was contacted by Ms Flack’s personal assistant on December 17, 2019.
She said: “I was told that Caroline was in the middle of a media crisis and could not sleep. She was incredibly distressed and needed some sleeping aids.
“I replied saying I could go to review her that day but I said I was a wellness doctor. Prior to message I wasn’t aware who she was.
“I was escorted to her room – she was very distressed and tearful. She was scrolling the media reports on her phone.”
Ms Lewis said Ms Flack had “a bandaged finger” following a fight with her boyfriend “but said it was nothing more than a lover’s tiff, heightened by alcohol”.
Ms Lewis added: “I spent much of the time listening to her concerns about the current media storm, her relationships, and her family.
“Her mood appeared low with a reactive effect, for example every time her phone notified her.
“She reported having panicky feelings all day… a sense of impending doom.” Ms Lewis said former Strictly Come Dancing winner Ms Flack did not say she had suicidal intent.
“She said she had been drinking excessively to numb herself,” Ms Lewis said. “She said sleep had been impossible.”
The night before Ms Flack was due to appear at Islington Magistrates’ Court in relation to the alleged assault on Mr Burton Dr Brian Wells said Flack had apparently “taken a small overdose” and was “fully conscious although somewhat inebriated”.
He said: “She was due at Islington Magistrates Court the following morning and had become distressed – she drunk alcohol and impulsively taken a mixture of medications.”
He said Ms Flack strongly said she did not have suicidal intent and recommended she did not need to go to hospital.
Mr Burton, Ms Flack’s boyfriend with whom she had the argument which resulted in the court case, said in a written statement which was summarised at the hearing: “The last time he saw Caroline 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.”
It was not stated in court when Mr Burton last saw Flack.
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Ms Flack’s mother Chris could be seen wiping tears from her eyes as her statement was read in court.
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.
“I feel the prosecutor was unkind to Caroline and my family. I was threatened with arrest when I tried to speak.
“There was disputed evidence in court. The result of the media attention of this hearing forced Caroline to leave her home which she loved.
“Being well-known should not allow special treatment but should not allow making an example of someone.”
She added: “Through all of this Caroline was told not to speak, not to tell her side of the story.
“The only person who was hurt that night was Caroline.
“An awful picture was sold to the press, Caroline was told not to speak while all the time her heart was breaking.
“She lost the job she worked so hard at.
“I was with her the weekend before her death, in her new flat.
“When I said goodbye to her that day I never thought it would be for the last time. I kissed her and she said: ‘Bye mum’.
“She asked if all the family would go with her to court and we said of course.
“I was called on Saturday lunchtime to say Carrie (Caroline) had died. I believe she was heartbroken.
“I know nothing will bring her back but I do want people to know what a lovely, kind, generous person she was.
“She never spoke badly of anyone and was totally loyal – that’s why she was always devastated when people close to her were happy to let her personal life appear in print.”
Flack’s twin sister Jody said in a written statement, read in part by the coroner Mary Hassell, that Flack was “in a very anxious state of mind” before her death and said an ambulance had been called for her four times previously.
She said: “Heartbreak is something Caroline found extremely difficult.
“She attempted to take her own life the night before she appeared in court. I believe the shame… was too much to deal with.
“She was called a ‘killer’ and an ‘abuser’ on the front of the newspapers.
“The press and the public found this a very entertaining angle and was spiralling out of control.”
Ms Flack added: “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.”
She said sections of the press were “hounding her” and had paid the neighbours to inform her on their movements.
Ms Flack said: “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.”
Giving evidence via video link, which cut out throughout the hearing, friend Louise Teasdale described her friend’s attitude towards life as like a “yo-yo”, sometimes being positive about the future and other times saying: “What’s the point?”.
Coroner Ms Hassell asked: “Did she say she actually wanted to kill herself?” Ms Teasdale replied: “Yes.”
Ms Teasdale told the inquest she and another friend had spent February 14, the Friday night before Ms Flack’s death, with the television presenter in her home, arriving at about 10.30pm.
The following morning she left the flat at about 10.30am after Ms Flack was angry with them for contacting an ambulance over their concerns that she had “clearly had a breakdown”.
She said: “Caroline spoke to her family about coming the next day because she wanted us to leave – she was quite angry with us. She didn’t want us there.”
She told the inquest: “We were always nervous to call the police because she didn’t trust the police and she didn’t want anything to come out to the public which looked like she was having a breakdown.”
Mollie Grosberg, another of Ms Flack’s long-standing friends, appeared via videolink to give evidence in the inquest. She told the coroner how Flack was “very loving”.
Ms Grosberg said: “She was very kind, she was very forgiving, she had a lot of friends, she was genuine.
“She wasn’t like a typical celebrity – you would feel very comfortable around her.
“It’s left a big hole for a lot of people.”
Ms Grosberg said the presenter’s mental health deteriorated the more famous she got.
She said: “Increasingly over the last few years she had a lot of heartache and the press seemed to pick up a lot on her. She was very sad all the time.
“Normally the kind of person she was, she could pick herself up.
“But she couldn’t after December… she lost who she was and she couldn’t get it back.”
Ms Grosberg described how she and Ms Teasdale went to Flack’s house on the evening of February 14 after the presenter sent a message saying she was going to kill herself. Flack was found barely conscious on her sofa, surrounded by tablets.
The friends called the non-emergency 111 number but then phoned for an ambulance an hour later when it did not arrive.
She told the inquest that paramedics arriving on the scene asked Flack if she attempted suicide but she said: “No, I had a headache”.
She said: “We were obviously very scared about getting the police involved. She was trying to explain.
“It was agreed she wasn’t going (to hospital) and I got very angry and shouted, I said this was ridiculous.
“They (paramedics) said: ‘She doesn’t want to go … you are going to have to do some babysitting’.”
Coroner Ms Hassell asked Ms Grosberg whether it was accurate that Flack pushed her friends away when she needed them most.
Ms Grosberg replied: “Yes. Every time I left her for half an hour she would do something.
“It feels like she needed help. She must’ve said ‘no-one will every understand what I’m going through’ 10 times that morning.
“She was so scared to go to prison, of the police, the press … it was too much. All she cared about was everybody else being affected.”
Ms Flack’s mother Chris told Ms Grosberg during live evidence at the inquest that she had been told by her daughter that Mr Burton had sent a picture of the bloody crime scene which formed the assault charge to one of his former girlfriends. It subsequently ended up published by some parts of the press.
Chris Flack said: “Lewis sent the photo of the blood and sent it to his friend. That killed her.”
Ms Grosberg replied: “As far as I know, this is the God’s honest truth, she never mentioned a word to me that he had sold or given the photo to an ex-girlfriend. That was never mentioned to me.”
Flack’s mother replied: “She said it to me and it was devastating that she found out.”
Paramedic Tony Rumore, who was called to Flack’s address on February 14, described how the former Love Island presenter denied trying to kill herself.
He said: “At that time she could stand up, she was alert, she was slightly lethargic. She wasn’t slurring her words and was able to get her words out.
“We asked them to disclose what she had taken, they said she had taken tablets.
“She said there was no alcohol that night and denied taking anything else.
“We asked Caroline if her intention was to harm or kill herself. She said it was merely an attempt to sleep and escape from the stresses she was under.”
Paramedic Mr Rumore said Ms Flack was advised to go with them to hospital to monitor her physical and mental health.
He told the inquest: “At that point Caroline said she adamantly would not be going to hospital and wanted to stay at home.
“We went through some of the risks – depression, organ failure, and death.
“With obviously so much stress in her life, not having a support network can also be quite detrimental to her mental health.
“Our recommendation was always to be going to hospital but Caroline chose that she did not want to go.”
Mr Rumore was asked whether there was any discussion about how to treat Ms Flack, considering her celebrity status.
He told the inquest: “I didn’t know who she was. I was addressing her as Jody, that’s the only way I knew her. She introduced herself as Jody.”
The coroner asked: “Did anybody say there’s an issue, as a well-known person, that if she goes to hospital she would be recognised?”
Mr Rumore replied: “We knew there were issues regarding privacy.”
The witness said he suggested Ms Flack’s friends stay overnight with her and then for Ms Flack to speak to her GP in the morning – something he said the television star agreed to do.
He said: “What we described was first thing in the morning, without any doubt, she would speak to her GP. That was agreed.”
Coroner Ms Hassell replied: “Did you say: ‘You need to stay with her until she’s at the GP’s surgery’?”
Mr Rumore replied: “It could have been worth having a discussion (with the friends) saying we need to make sure she gets there but that was not our original plan – we wanted her in hospital that night.”
He agreed there would have been benefit in having a discussion with the friends to stay with Ms Flack until she was seen by the GP.
Paramedic Mr Rumore said it was not possible to detain Flack under the Mental Health Act.
He said: “She could be sectioned if she was in a public place but in her own place of safety she could not be detained – she was in her own home at the time.”
The hearing continues.
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