Friends of Caroline Flack have told the inquest into her death that they thought she had taken an overdose the night before she killed herself, but the TV presenter refused paramedic advice to go to hospital.
Long-time friends Louise Teasdale and Mollie Grosberg said they found Flack, 40, barely conscious on the sofa at her north London flat with tablets lying nearby, and called an ambulance.
But, when paramedics arrived, Flack denied she had intended to kill herself, and refused to go to hospital, coroner Mary Hassell sitting at Poplar coroner’s court, east London was told.
One of the paramedics, Tony Rumore, said Flack was “slightly lethargic” but able to stand up. He said: “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.”
The two friends stayed overnight but left the following morning after Flack was angry with them for calling paramedics.
Flack was found dead later that day, 15 February. The Love Island host was facing trial for assaulting her boyfriend, Lewis Burton, a former tennis player and model, in December. She had learned the previous day that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was continuing with the prosecution.
Flack’s mother, Chris Flack, said her daughter had faced a “show trial” and been “hounded by the press” in the weeks before she took her life. In a statement read to the court she said: “I believe Caroline was seriously let down by the authorities and in particular the CPS for pursuing the case.”
The CPS’s original intention was to caution Flack, rather than charge her. That was overturned following an appeal from the Metropolitan police who felt Flack had not made full admissions in her police interview, Lisa Ramsarran, a deputy chief crown prosecutor, told the inquest.
In December last year, Burton had dialled 999 claiming Flack was “trying to kill him” while he was asleep and that he had a cracked head after being hit with a lamp, which was bleeding “profusely”, she said.
Flack admitted making a “flicking gesture” with her phone, which made contact with Burton’s head, after reading texts which questioned his fidelity, and that she was surprised to see an injury and blood, added Ramsarran.
It was decided a caution was not appropriate, that there was sufficient evidence and it was in the public interest to authorise a charge of assault by beating. Flack was then charged, she added.
It was never resolved whether it was a lamp, a desk fan or a phone that caused the injury, the inquest was told.
Flack had self-harmed at the scene, and was taken to hospital for a psychiatric assessment and deemed fit for interview, the inquest heard.
Family and friends painted a picture of the TV star falling apart in the weeks leading up to her death.
Asked by the coroner Mary Hassell, sitting at Poplar coroner’s court in east London, whether Flack had said “she actually wanted to kill herself”, Flack’s friend Teasdale replied “yes”.
Flack’s mother said the evidence in the criminal proceedings against her daughter was “disputed”. But the resulting media attention had “forced Caroline to leave her home which she loved, I believe eventually to take her own life”.
Through it all, Flack was told not to “tell her side of the story”, her mother said in a statement. “The only person who was hurt that night was Caroline,” she said. “She lost the job she worked so hard at.”
Flack had been called an “abuser” in the newspapers, her sister Jody Flack said. “Her life and reputation she worked hard to build was falling apart … because of a false accusation,” she added. Flack had “spent months hiding inside”.
“Caroline seemed very sad the day before her death – she seemed to have lost her fight,” she said.
She said Flack was in a “very anxious” state of mind. Ambulances had previously been called on four occasions.
Tamsin Lewis, a psychiatrist and lifestyle practitioner, who was called by Flack’s personal assistant on 17 December, told the court she was informed Flack was “in the middle of a media crisis and could not sleep”.
She was “incredibly distressed” and tearful, Lewis said in a statement. “She was scrolling the media reports on her phone.” She had a bandaged finger, which she explained was the result of a “lovers’ tiff” with Burton, “heightened by alcohol”.
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Lewis added that her mood appeared low and “she reported having panicky feelings all day – a sense of impending doom”. Flack did not say she had suicidal intent, added Lewis.
“She said she had been drinking excessively to numb herself. She said sleep had been impossible.”
Burton described Flack as “not in a good place emotionally”, “devastated” and said she sometimes talked of taking her own life.
He said in a statement: “The media were constantly bashing her character, writing hurtful stories, generally hounding her daily.” He added: “What was worrying her most was the police case and losing her presenting job on Love Island, plus not being able to see me.” Burton had asked the CPS to drop the case.
David O’Toole, a paramedic called to Flack’s flat on 15 February, said it appeared she had been dead for hours.
The inquest continues.
In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.