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Caroline Flack and Lewis Burton ‘assault’ accounts conflicted

Caroline Flack’s inquest heard how she and boyfriend Lewis Burton gave police conflicting accounts of her alleged assault on the night she was arrested. 

Police attended Flack’s home in December after Mr Burton, said to be bleeding profusely from a cut to his head, phoned emergency services saying she was trying to kill him. 

A section from the police incident report described how Flack made admissions to officers called to the scene.

It said: ‘He [Mr Burton] made an allegation he had been asleep in bed with Ms Flack, and he had been suddenly woken by her hitting him on the head with some force.

‘Flack made a number of admissions in the presence of police officers, statements such as: ‘I hit him, he was cheating on me’.’

‘At this time it is unclear what object was used to assault Mr Burton. He assumed it was a desk fan or a lamp.’ 

The log said Flack’s phone had been seized, it had a significant amount of blood on it, and a crack on one of the corners.

Flack gave an account to police at the scene, read to the inquest, in which she said: ‘I did, I whacked him round the head like that’, gesturing a swinging motion with her right hand to police.

She told police: ‘I admit I did it. I used the phone. I had his phone in one hand, and my phone in the other.

‘I whacked him round the head, there’s no excuse for it, I was upset.’

However, in police interview later, Flack said she flicked Mr Burton ‘to wake him up’, and that she did not believe she caused his injury. 

A letter to Caroline Flack’s GP from the psychiatric department of the hospital where she was treated after the alleged assault was also read to court.

It described how the television personality was ‘tearful and anxious’ and that she ‘said she had too much to drink’.

It adds: ‘The reason for the argument was she saw messages on his phone, texting another girl. She said it was an impulsive reaction (to hit him).’

It added: ‘She is worried about how her job is affected because of the incident. She is looking forward to going to work on Monday and has a new job starting in January.’ 

Flack killed herself after hearing she would definitely be prosecuted for assaulting her boyfriend, a coroner ruled today after her mother confronted the police officer who pushed for her to be charged at her inquest and said, ‘you should be disgusted with yourself’.  

The 40-year-old was found dead on February 15, the day after hearing the Crown Prosecution Service would go ahead with a trial for allegedly attacking her model and former tennis player boyfriend Lewis Burton, 27, in December. 

Today Coroner Mary Hassell gave a verdict of suicide, saying: ‘I am entirely satisfied she intended to cause her own death. She hanged herself. 

‘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.’ 

It came after her mother, Christine, blasted a senior Met Police officer for appealing against the CPS’s decision to give her daughter a caution after her arrest despite officers finding her at the crime scene with an injury caused by self-harm.

Accusing Detective Inspector Lauren Bateman of treating her more harshly due to her celebrity status, Mrs Flack told the inquest: ‘She (Caroline) cut her arm (to cause serious injury to herself)… and you were putting an appeal in to get her prosecuted, you never bothered to see her.

‘If it had been… an ordinary person, you wouldn’t have prosecuted. I see domestic abuse and I just think you should be disgusted with yourself so there is nothing we can do to bring Caroline back. I hope in hindsight you do regret this. This girl killed herself because you put an appeal through.’

The ‘appeal’ referenced an initial decision by prosecutors to issue Flack with a caution, before DI Bateman, the senior Met officer in charge when the celebrity was taken into custody, applied for a formal charge instead. The final decision would have been made by a senior lawyer. 

Prior to Mrs Flack’s intervention DI Bateman had denied treating the presenter more harshly because she was famous and insisted she ‘wouldn’t do anything differently’ if confronted with the case again today. She said a caution was not appropriate because Flack did not admit her guilt in a police interview. 

Flack strongly denied assaulting Mr Burton, and had pleaded not guilty to assault by beating at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court on December 23. 

Her sister, Jody, said she tried to take her own life before the first court appearance, and then a further two times before she hanged herself at her London flat. 

Flack’s family have repeatedly accused the authorities of pursuing a ‘show trial’ despite being aware of her worsening mental health.

The court also heard new details of a note that was found near her body, which read: ‘Please let this court case be dropped and myself and Lewis find harmony.’ The TV star’s twin, Jody, who is watching the inquest on a video link with her mother, Christine, confirmed the note was written in her sister’s handwriting.  

Coroner Mary Hassell ruled that Flack died by suicide, as she described how she struggled with her mental health. 

She said: ‘The key decision for me to make is whether Caroline took her own life. I have to be satisfied she acted in a way so as to cause her death, and secondly that she intended to cause her death.

‘In Caroline’s case I am entirely satisfied she intended to cause her own death. She hanged herself. She had only one expectation – her own death. There’s no doubt in my mind at all.’ 

The coroner said Flack had experienced ‘fluctuating ill health’ and was ‘distressed’ at the thought of facing a trial. 

She said: ‘Caroline had fluctuating mental ill health, she had had struggles in the past.

‘She had had difficulties. In spite of the fact she may have led – to some – a charmed life, actually the more famous she got the more some of these difficulties increased – she had to deal with the media in a way most of us don’t.

‘It was played out in the national press – and that was incredibly difficult for her. She faced the prospect of not working in the job she loved, losing a great deal.

‘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.’

Flack’s mother, Christine, wept as she told the coroner over video-link: ‘I totally agree, I think you got it spot on.

‘We know you are not allowed to say certain things and it’s up to us if we want to take it any further, and we don’t. You’re spot on.’

Concluding, the coroner recorded a death of suicide caused by hanging.

Mrs Hassell said: ‘Caroline hanged herself at home on the morning of February 15 because of an exacerbation of fluctuating ill health and distress.’  

Detective Inspector Lauren Bateman, the senior officer on duty when Flack was taken into custody on December 12, today denied ever treating the presenter differently because she was a celebrity. 

CPS prosecutor Alison Wright originally said Flack should only be given a caution but this decision was changed after DI Bateman appealed. 

Flack’s mother, Christine could be seen on videolink shaking her head as DI Bateman said she would still push for a charge rather than a caution if she was confronted with the case again today. 

In response to Mrs Flack’s criticism that she did not go and check the celebrity in custody, the officer replied: ‘To be honest I would never see a detainee in custody. Perhaps in hindsight I could have gone and spoken to her but routinely I would not do.’

Mrs Flack said: ‘Did you feel you needed to get involved in a minor assault? Why did you get involved?’

DI Bateman replied: ‘I became involved because I was asked by the officers to make the appeal. The only officer who can do that is an inspector.’ 

The inquest heard today that Flack admitted to police at the scene that she had hit Mr Burton with her phone because she thought he was cheating on her.  

The CPS reviewed its original decision to only caution Flack following the Met’s interference and subsequently pressed ahead with an assault charge.

Prosecutor Alison Wright said in a written statement read out to today’s inquest that police challenged her decision not to charge Flack because they believed she was influenced by the suspect’s celebrity status. 

Ms Wright’s report of the case added: ‘I have been informed that the police are not willing to administer a caution.

‘The police claim I have taken a biased view of the case because Caroline Flack is a celebrity. 

‘She should be and is in my opinion being treated exactly the same as any other suspect.’

However, DI Bateman told today’s inquest the police had actually pushed for a charge rather than a caution because Flack had not provided a clear admission to assault in her police interview.   

She told the hearing: ‘Unfortunately when she was interviewed at the police station it was slightly different. In my opinion it was unclear what Caroline was alluding to.

‘Although she made some admissions at the scene, things were said differently (in interview). In my view it wasn’t clear what she was admitting to.’

Mrs Flack said her daughter was taken from the crime scene, leaving Mr Burton to remain in her home.

She told DI Bateman: ‘You took her (Flack) away, he (Mr Burton) was allowed to take pictures of the blood of Caroline, send them to friends, and they appeared in the press.’

The ‘appeal’ referenced an initial decision by prosecutors to issue Flack with a caution, before DI Bateman applied for a formal charge instead. 

The inquest heard that in her police interview, Flack said she flicked Mr Burton ‘to wake him up’, and that she did not believe she caused his injury.

The coroner suggested DI Bateman was ‘splitting hairs’ in what she considered to be Flack’s admission of guilt.

DI Bateman replied: ‘In my view, it wasn’t a clear admission of what had happened.’

A lack of admission meant the case could not be dealt with through a caution, the inquest was told.

DI Bateman said a senior lawyer would make the final decision whether or not to agree that a caution was insufficient.

She reiterated that her view was that a caution for this sort of offence was not in line with the guidance. 

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

The review said that she suffered from ‘features’ of PTSD and a stress disorder, which are recognised conditions in the UK, the court heard. 

But Ms Weiss cited various factors – such as the violence involved, that Lewis Burton was sleeping, that a caution is rare for a domestic violence case, and that police said Flack showed no remorse in interview – when making her decision that a caution was not appropriate.

She said: ‘In light of these factors, I believe a caution is not appropriate.’

She also said Flack demonstrated a ‘lack of remorse’ by breaching her bail condition not to contact Mr Burton when she sent an Instagram message to him saying: ‘I love you.’

Ms Weiss said it was ‘the norm’ for people charged with an offence to become stressed, following concerns from others about Flack’s mental health as the case progressed.

She wrote: ‘The fact her career is affected is unfortunate but this has no bearing on my decision.’

Today the coroner asked senior prosecutor Lisa Ramsarran about the document from lawyer Kate Weiss reviewing the decision to prosecute Caroline Flack, including that she breached her bail conditions with the ‘I love you’ message on Instagram.

Mrs 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: ‘That’s not a view I share. I don’t share your view that we are treating this defendant any different from anyone else.’ 

Mrs Flack told prosecutor Ms Ramsarran: ‘After listening to you and the first lady (DI Lauren Bateman), I feel even more that you had it in for Caroline.

‘I now know how Caroline felt and it is not very nice. Thank you, coroner, for allowing us to ask questions today, it’s meant a lot.’ 

Today’s inquest featured a long exchange about the nature of Mr Burton’s injury after he was allegedly assaulted by Flack.  

Police attended Flack’s home in December after Mr Burton, said to be bleeding profusely from a cut to his head, phoned emergency services saying she was trying to kill him.

Today, deputy chief Crown prosecutor Lisa Ramsarran, giving evidence via video link for a second day, said she was ‘satisfied’ by the characterisation of his injury as ‘significant’.

He was left with a small cut above the hairline when he was struck by Flack, but did not attend hospital, the inquest heard.

Ms Ramsarran told the inquest: ‘I’m satisfied in the context of a charge of assault by beating, the injury is at the top end of what you might see. This was a significant injury.’  

The coroner said: ‘I’m really struggling to understand how this injury was regarded as significant.’

Ms Ramsarran replied: ‘Madam, I have given the explanation as far as I’m concerned – there was a breaking of the skin that was bleeding quite profusely at the scene.’

She added: ‘He was advised to get medical attention but was reluctant to do so and left the scene as quickly as possible.’

Flack’s mother, Christine, could be seen shaking her head at this point.  

Flack’s 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.

    

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