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Caroline Flack’s tearful mother blasts CPS over ‘show trial’

Caroline Flack’s tearful mother today blasted the Crown Prosecution Service for pursuing a ‘show trial’ of her daughter as her inquest revealed police pushed for the Love Island presenter to be prosecuted. 

The 40-year-old, well known for hosting Love Island and The X Factor, was found hanged at her home in Stoke Newington, north-east London, on February 15 2020.

She had been due to stand trial for assaulting her boyfriend, former tennis player and model Lewis Burton in December, after police arriving at the bloodstained scene described it looking like ‘a horror movie’.

Today her mother, Christine, gave a written statement to the court in which she claimed her daughter had been ‘let down’ by the authorities. 

‘I believe Caroline was seriously let down by the authorities and in particular the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) for pursuing the case,’ she said. 

‘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.’

Today’s inquest went into detail about Flack’s poor mental health in the months leading up to her death, including evidence at the crime scene that she had self-harmed. 

Lisa Ramsarran, a deputy chief Crown prosecutor in north London, said the CPS had considered her mental health while deciding whether to authorise a charge against her but decided the risk was ‘low’. 

Flack 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’. It was confirmed there was no suicidal ideation or thoughts of self-harm.

‘That report was prepared by psychiatric liaison nurses within the hospital where Caroline was taken.’

In other evidence at today’s inquest, Ms Ramsarran said the CPS had initially suggested cautioning Flack but that the police pushed for an assault charge. 

‘The initial prosecutor who considered the evidence came to the view, applying the code, that there was sufficient evidence to support a charge (of actual bodily harm), but that because Caroline Flack had made admissions, she determined a caution would be an appropriate disposal,’ she said. 

Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Lauren Bateman said some of her colleagues were opposed to charging Flack, but did not go into details about why. 

Ms Ramsarran said cases involving domestic violence allegations, such as the one involving Flack and Mr Burton, have to be treated ‘particularly seriously’.

She said guidance states it would be the exception or rare to offer a caution in domestic abuse cases.

The decision to charge Flack with assault was made by the CPS chief prosecutor Ed Beltrami. 

Going over details of the case, Ms Ramsarran said: ‘There was evidence Burton had a cracked head, and Caroline Flack was beating up.

‘It was also suggested on the call Caroline Flack was trying to kill him, and he asked for police assistance at the address.’

She said there was evidence he was hit with a lamp – earlier in the inquest, Flack’s family disputed this.

Ms Ramsarran said: ‘Mr Burton, at the time, reported to police he had been hit with a lamp.

‘He later relayed to an officer when he was in the bedroom of the property… he indicated to officers that the desk lamp was used.

‘Caroline in her police interview provided information that she used her phone to cause the injury sustained to Mr Burton.

‘I think the overall position, in terms of the prosecution case, is that Mr Burton had been struck with an object to the head.

‘It wasn’t clear if it was the lamp or the phone, but the prosecution case is that he was struck hard enough to his head that he was bleeding profusely, when police arrived, on his head.’ 

Ms Ramsarran said although there was dispute over whether Mr Burton was hit with a phone, a fan or a desk lamp, the prosecution case against Caroline Flack ‘always remained that Mr Burton was hit with an object with sufficient force to cause an injury’.

She told the inquest: ‘The evidence recorded on the (police) body-worn footage did show an injury that was bleeding profusely from Mr Burton.

‘There was no evidence to refute that it was a phone (used by Flack).

‘But what was an issue in the case – clarified by Caroline’s legal team – is that the force used was not unlawful.

‘The issue in the case is not what Mr Burton was hit with, but whether the action of hitting him was an accident, as was the defence case, or whether it was intentional, which was the prosecution case.’ 

Ms Ramsarran told the inquest prosecutors looked at Flack’s mental health when the case was first reviewed by CPS Direct, 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’.

‘It was confirmed there was no suicidal ideation or thoughts of self-harm.

‘That report was prepared by psychiatric liaison nurses within the hospital where Caroline was taken.’ 

Caroline Flack wrote a tearful final message hoping that she and her boyfriend would ‘find harmony’, her inquest heard today – as her sister told how she performed CPR in a desperate attempt to save her. 

The 40-year-old former Love Island and X Factor presenter was found hanged at her home in Stoke Newington, north-east London, on February 15 this year. 

On a coffee table a paramedic saw a note that read: ‘I hope me and Lewis can one day find harmony’. 

Flack had been due to stand trial for assaulting her boyfriend, former tennis player and model Lewis Burton, in December, after police arriving at the bloodstained scene described it looking like ‘a horror movie’.

The inquest heard how the star’s friends and twin sister tried desperately to break into the house where she killed herself. 

Stephen Teasdale, father of Flack’s hair stylist friend Louise, 36, said he went to the scene after the star’s twin sister Jody phoned to say she could not get in to Flack’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 Flack’s lifeless body, hanged.

He said: ‘I brought her (down) and Jody started CPR. We were giving CPR for somewhere between five and ten minutes, then the police took over.’ 

It came as Flack’s mother, Christine, claimed her daughter had been ‘let down’ by officials and made the subject of a ‘show trial’. 

‘I believe Caroline was seriously let down by the authorities and in particular the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) for pursuing the case,’ she said. 

‘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.’

Flack’s mother could be seen weeping on video link as her statement was read by Coroner Mary Hassell at Poplar Coroner’s Court in east London. 

The inquest heard from several witnesses, including friends, family and medical professionals, who attested to Flack’s troubled state of mind in the months leading up to her death.  

Flack’s sister, Jody said she believed the presenter tried to kill herself in December, ahead of her first appearance at the magistrates court for assault.

She said Flack was ‘in a very anxious state of mind’ before her death and said an ambulance had been called for her four times previously.

‘Heartbreak is something Caroline found extremely difficult,’ Jody said. ‘She attempted to take her own life the night before she appeared in court. I believe the shame … was too much to deal with.’

Brian Wells, a doctor called to Flack’s hotel room the night before her court appearance, said the presenter was inebriated and had apparently ‘taken a small overdose’. However, she was not suicidal, nor did she need hospital treatment, the court was told.

Meanwhile, Tamsin Lewis, psychiatrist and lifestyle medicine practitioner in Mayfair, said in a statement that she was contacted by Flack’s personal assistant on December 17, 2019 and met her for an appointment. 

Ms Lewis said 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.’

She said Flack did not say she had suicidal intent.

‘She said she had been drinking excessively to numb herself,’ Ms Lewis told the court. ‘She said sleep had been impossible.’ 

Mollie Grosberg, another of Flack’s long-standing friends, appeared via videolink to give evidence in the inquest.

She told the coroner how Flack was ‘very loving’, adding: ‘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.’ 

Dr Jonathan Garabette, a consultant psychiatrist who treated Flack, described how the celebrity suffered a deterioration of her mental state in December 2019 following the assault allegation.

The statement said he had concerns regarding the likely impact of ongoing court case.

He said: ‘It appears likely her mental state will be vulnerable for further degradation.’

His statement also said Flack had previously spoke about another ‘alleged ongoing harassment’, but it was not stated in open court who this involved, although the coroner said it did not involve her boyfriend Lewis Burton.

Friend Ms Grosberg described how she and Ms Teasdale went to Flack’s house on the evening of Friday 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 baby sitting’.’

Coroner Mary Hassell asked friend Mollie 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’ ten 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.’

Today’s inquest also heard about the immediate aftermath of Flack’s death on February 15. 

Paramedic David O’Toole said he entered the property that evening and saw two women distraught on a sofa.

He said the victim appeared to have been ‘dead for a number of hours’ and that 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, which referenced ‘Lewis’. 

Pc Tim Child said there was evidence of suicide attempts elsewhere in the property. 

Det Sgt Jonathan Maharaj said there was evidence of ‘a number of calls’ made and received on Flack’s mobile phone, and that she conducted searches for ‘people who blame’ as well as for suicide.

Today’s hearing heard details about Flack’s behaviour on February 14, the Friday night before her death.  

Friend Louise Teasdale said she and another friend had spent the evening with the television presenter in her home, arriving at about 10.30pm.

The following morning, she left the flat at about 10.30am after 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.’

The court heard the deceased was born Caroline Louise Flack, on November 9, 1979 in Enfield, her occupation was a television presenter, and that she died at home in Stoke Newington on February 15.     

Pathologist Professor Michael Sheaff found Flack died from hanging. 

A photograph of a bloody crime scene emerged in media coverage of Flack’s case, and this was mentioned in today’s inquest.  

Flack’s mother Chris told Ms Grosberg during live evidence that she had been told by her daughter that Lewis Burton had sent the picture 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.’

Flack’s management team criticised the CPS for conducting a ‘show trial’ which prompted a review into her death.

However, the CPS found the case was handled ‘appropriately’.

Flack’s mother said her daughter’s legal team and psychologist warned about the potential for the former Strictly champion to kill herself.

She also said the claim was denied by both Mr Burton and Flack and ‘was completely inconsistent with the injury that Mr Burton sustained’. 

Lisa Ramsarran, a deputy chief Crown prosecutor in north London, told the inquest the CPS had initially suggested cautioning Flack but that the police pushed for an assault charge. 

‘The initial prosecutor who considered the evidence came to the view, applying the code, that there was sufficient evidence to support a charge (of actual bodily harm), but that because Caroline Flack had made admissions, she determined a caution would be an appropriate disposal,’ she said. 

 Ms Ramsarran said cases involving domestic violence allegations, such as the one involving Flack and Mr Burton, have to be treated ‘particularly seriously’.

She said guidance states it would be the exception or rare to offer a caution in domestic abuse cases.

The decision to charge Flack with assault was made by the CPS chief prosecutor Ed Beltrami. 

Going over details of the case, Ms Ramsarran said: ‘There was evidence Burton had a cracked head, and Caroline Flack was beating up.

‘It was also suggested on the call Caroline Flack was trying to kill him, and he asked for police assistance at the address.’

She said there was evidence he was hit with a lamp – earlier in the inquest, Flack’s family disputed this.

Ms Ramsarran said: ‘Mr Burton, at the time, reported to police he had been hit with a lamp.

‘He later relayed to an officer when he was in the bedroom of the property… he indicated to officers that the desk lamp was used.

‘Caroline in her police interview provided information that she used her phone to cause the injury sustained to Mr Burton.

‘I think the overall position, in terms of the prosecution case, is that Mr Burton had been struck with an object to the head.

‘It wasn’t clear if it was the lamp or the phone, but the prosecution case is that he was struck hard enough to his head that he was bleeding profusely, when police arrived, on his head.’ 

Ms Ramsarran said although there was dispute over whether Mr Burton was hit with a phone, a fan or a desk lamp, the prosecution case against Caroline Flack ‘always remained that Mr Burton was hit with an object with sufficient force to cause an injury’.

She told the inquest: ‘The evidence recorded on the (police) body-worn footage did show an injury that was bleeding profusely from Mr Burton.

‘There was no evidence to refute that it was a phone (used by Flack).

‘But what was an issue in the case – clarified by Caroline’s legal team – is that the force used was not unlawful.

‘The issue in the case is not what Mr Burton was hit with, but whether the action of hitting him was an accident, as was the defence case, or whether it was intentional, which was the prosecution case.’ 

Ms Ramsarran told the inquest prosecutors looked at Flack’s mental health when the case was first reviewed by CPS Direct, 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’.

‘It was confirmed there was no suicidal ideation or thoughts of self-harm.

‘That report was prepared by psychiatric liaison nurses within the hospital where Caroline was taken.’    

Going over details of the case during Caroline Flack’s inquest, Lisa Ramsarran, a deputy chief Crown prosecutor in north London, said: ‘There was evidence Burton had a cracked head, and Caroline Flack was beating up.

‘It was also suggested on the call Caroline Flack was trying to kill him, and he asked for police assistance at the address.’

She said there was evidence he was hit with a lamp – earlier in the inquest, Flack’s family disputed this.

Ms Ramsarran said: ‘Mr Burton, at the time, reported to police he had been hit with a lamp.

‘He later relayed to an officer when he was in the bedroom of the property… he indicated to officers that the desk lamp was used.

‘Caroline in her police interview provided information that she used her phone to cause the injury sustained to Mr Burton.

‘I think the overall position, in terms of the prosecution case, is that Mr Burton had been struck with an object to the head.

‘It wasn’t clear if it was the lamp or the phone, but the prosecution case is that he was struck hard enough to his head that he was bleeding profusely, when police arrived, on his head.’ 

Ms Ramsarran said the prosecution initially determined that the evidential test for a charge against Caroline Flack had been met, but that public interest was not met on the basis that Flack had made an admission.

She said: ‘I understand the police did not feel this (a caution) was a suitable disposal in this case.

‘I think there was a suggestion at first she hadn’t hit Lewis Burton over the head, then that he had been reading text messages on his phone which she felt confirmed her suspicions of his fidelity.

‘Caroline’s version of events was that she had tapped Mr Burton on the head, firstly on the leg to wake him up, then in a flicking gesture made contact with his head at a time when she still had her phone in her hand.

‘She was surprised thereafter to see an injury that was then bleeding.’

Ms Ramsarran said although there was dispute over whether Mr Burton was hit with a phone, a fan or a desk lamp, the prosecution case against Caroline Flack ‘always remained that Mr Burton was hit with an object with sufficient force to cause an injury’.

She told the inquest: ‘The evidence recorded on the (police) body-worn footage did show an injury that was bleeding profusely from Mr Burton.

‘There was no evidence to refute that it was a phone (used by Flack).

‘But what was an issue in the case – clarified by Caroline’s legal team – is that the force used was not unlawful.

‘The issue in the case is not what Mr Burton was hit with, but whether the action of hitting him was an accident, as was the defence case, or whether it was intentional, which was the prosecution case.’ 

Flack’s former boyfriend Lewis Burton told the court today in a written statement: ‘The last time I 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. 

Jody Flack also criticised media coverage of her sister, telling today’s inquest: ‘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.

‘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 them on her movements.

Jody 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.’  

Flack’s family had increased concerns about her mental state as her trial loomed, while Mr Burton also pleaded to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to drop the case.

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’.  

Paramedic Tony Rumore, who was called to Flack’s address on Friday 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 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.’

Paramedic Mr Rumore was asked whether there was any discussion about how to treat 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 medic said he suggested Flack’s friends stay overnight with her and then for Flack to speak to her GP in the morning – something he said the former Love Island 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.’

The coroner, Mary 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 Flack until she was seen by the GP.

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.’ 

Ms Grosberg, giving evidence at the inquest again after the lunch break, said the paramedics said she and Flack’s other friends needed to ‘babysit’ her. 

‘She (Flack) was a danger in her behaviour and she wasn’t in her right mind,’ she said. ‘The responsibility of a medical professional is to look after a person, not to ask her friends to babysit her.’  

Mr Rumore said it was his recollection that he was not told about Flack’s previous suicidal tendencies by her friends.

But looking back on the incident with hindsight, he told the inquest: ‘We did want a better outcome and make sure we are as thorough as possible.’

His colleague, whose name was not given in court, described being at Flack’s home for ‘about 45 minutes to an hour’ the night before she died, after being called by friends concerned by the presenter’s ingestion of some tablets.

The female paramedic said: ‘We recommended she (Flack) go with us (to hospital). She was quite blunt in saying she did not want to go to hospital.

‘We had to figure out what the best option was. She said she didn’t want to go due to privacy and that the media found out last time. She wasn’t very forthgiving (sic) with any information.’

The female paramedic said there was no suggestion Caroline Flack had a history of self-harm.

She told the inquest: ‘For me, she had taken some medications for trying to sleep.

‘Whether that was the truth or not, that’s what I was provided. At that moment I didn’t believe she was at risk of suicide or self-harm.’  

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’.

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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