The inquest into the death of Caroline Flack took place this week, with the coroner ruling that the television star took her own life by suicide.
At the centre of it lies the tragedy of a much-loved woman dying too young and too soon, by her own hand.
Six months later, her family and friends are still stunned by what happened.
Caroline was beautiful, sweet and kind, they say, and no one doubts it. Their claims that she was somehow penalised for her celebrity, made an example of, punished by the police and hounded by the media, are rather more troubling.
Dark forces gathered to push her into this situation, they say. Who is to blame, they ask, because they believe there must be blame and that it must be apportioned swiftly — even if the sad events that led to Caroline’s death seemed to have a terrible momentum all of their own.
Her family have criticised the more lurid media coverage of her death, as well they might. Under the scrutiny, Caroline felt that her reputation and career were falling apart.
She had been dropped from Love Island, a bitter blow. And, like most people going to court on serious charges, she also felt ashamed. Celebrity is no barrier to these very human responses to adversity, and that is no one’s fault.
We now know that Caroline Flack had attempted suicide before the fateful altercation with her boyfriend, Lewis Burton. And that this was not the first time they had argued, for neighbours reported that the couple often had loud fights.
When the news of her arrest first broke, a previous boyfriend was quick to make it public that he was ‘sad but not surprised’ at the allegations of her violence.
‘Abuse has no gender,’ he tweeted, rather piously. Yet all of this suggested a pattern of aggressive behaviour on Caroline’s part — and that cannot and should not be overlooked, no matter how lovely she was.
But her distraught mother, Christine, claims Caroline was killed by a ‘show trial’ — or the threat of a trial, to be more accurate. She blames the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and police for bringing charges over the late-night assault on Burton, whom Caroline suspected of being unfaithful.
In court yesterday, Mrs Flack directly accused a police officer, claiming that Caroline ‘killed herself because of your assault case’. She added: ‘I just think you should be disgusted with yourself.’
A mother’s grief is a terrible thing to behold, but it is hard to see how the Metropolitan Police can be held responsible for this death.
Caroline was not in police custody at the time, but she had made an unprovoked attack on a sleeping man and she changed her story about the event.
A caution for domestic violence in the circumstances would have been rare.
There is also the bigger implication that if Caroline had not been a celebrity, then the matter would have been quietly dropped and everyone could have carried on, business as usual. But is that really true or credible?
Imagine if the genders had been reversed. There would not have been a single quibble about the case proceeding. Indeed, there would have been uproar if it had not.
The fact that Flack was a woman — a tiny woman at that, more than a foot shorter than her 6 ft 4 in boyfriend — is a potent factor because of the way we regard female violence, particularly towards men. A big, fit bloke like Lewis? What could the woman he called his ‘pocket rocket’ possibly do to harm him?
Yet it doesn’t work like that, does it? Lewis was taken away in an ambulance, leaving splashes of blood on the doorstep.
It is the duty of the CPS and the police to take domestic violence seriously — we should be glad that they do. Two women to every one man report domestic abuse in the UK, which amounts to around 685,000 male victims and 1,300,000 females every year.
It is not uncommon for those accused of domestic violence to intimidate their victims into not appearing in court, or to persuade or coerce them into keeping silent.
In this case, Lewis was the victim; he was the man who dialled 999 and alleged physical harm at Caroline’s hands.
In the wee small hours, after finding text messages on his phone to another woman, she smashed an object — he said it was a lamp, she insisted it was a mobile phone — on his head.
He called the police in fear of his life. In the aftermath he changed his mind about bringing charges, but the truth is, that decision was not his to make. Under English law, it is the CPS and the police who decide who goes to court, not the victim.
Later, Caroline discovered that he had texted photographs of her blood-stained bedroom to a former girlfriend — that must have been devastating, especially as the images later appeared in print.
Equally wounding was the unsolicited testimony from her ex. Of course, these men are not to blame for what happened to Caroline, but they are potent eddies in the whirlpool of events that engulfed her.
We have seen in their recent court case how drugs and alcohol fuelled the domestic violence between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. There are also elements of that here, although on a less torrid scale.
Yet celebrity clouds everything with a toxic sheen that often hides the simple truth. Caroline Flack was charged not because of her celebrity, but in spite of it. For the reality is that while celebrity makes the good times better, it also makes the bad times worse.
The private agony of the Flack family has to be played out on a public stage because people loved Caroline and she was a star; but is that really what brought her to this low point and made her want to end her life? As her friends would say, it’s complicated.
Actress Rebel Wilson says her weight loss is due to the Mayr clinic method of chewing every mouthful 40 times. Having been to the clinic myself, isn’t it more likely that her marvellous new shape is due to the Mayr’s mouse-sized portions of steamed vegetables, concrete breadsticks and . . . wasn’t there something else the place is famous for? Oh yes, the twice-weekly enemas. Mayr force be with you, Rebel!
Here we go with the BBC insisting upon a licence fee for the elderly.
From now on, over-75s will have to pay for the privilege of being fed a diet of Lefty news and politics programmes and lectured to by Emily Maitlis.
Not much of a bargain — but is the Beeb really prepared to see courts stuffed with pensioners who can’t pay, won’t pay, take it away? Is it really going to prosecute them?
What a disgraceful farce this is going to be.
Continuing my occasional series of cheap-as-chips beauty tips. If your hands are dry and chapped from constant sanitising — and frankly, whose are not? — get some of Marks & Spencer’s own-brand Almond Milk & Vanilla Hand Balm (I think I got mine in the toiletries section of the Food Hall). It’s half the price of other brands — and drenching.
An idiot bloke fills a room with balloons and lights a forest of romantic candles — then goes off to collect his girlfriend from work to bring her home to propose. In the meantime, the flat in Sheffield burns down. Of course it does. Doh.
What are the most common causes of fire in the home? Making chips while drunk, according to Billy Connolly; a practice known as ‘Glasgow roulette’. This is closely followed by our old friend the unattended candle.
This incident really did happen this week.
The most incredible thing of all? She still said yes.
Saying ‘the new normal’ is the new normal, but that doesn’t stop it being any less annoying, normally. While we are on this subject, could everyone please agree that a staycation is when you stay at home in your own house and don’t go on holiday? A holiday elsewhere in the UK is a holiday. GOT THAT?
Isn’t it thoughtful and lovely of Summer Monteys-Fullam to do her keep-fit workout in front of a photographer on a country lane in Kent? Such a marvellous coincidence that a snapper happened to be passing when she was doing her lunges.
In such an eye-catching, plunge-front crop-top with matching leggings, too. That girl is all heart! She is certainly all something, and at the moment it appears to be restrained behind a few inches of high-pressure red Lycra.
However, I just love Summer’s joie de vivre and her determination to make the most of her 15 minutes of fame.
She has turned being the ex-girlfriend of TV baking star Paul Hollywood into a putative career.
Her social media photographs are a gripping visual commentary on what it means to be a demi-starlette cum quasi pin-up: she’s in the back garden wearing Dolce & Gabbana; pouting in a pink cocktail dress at the pub; horse-riding in full maquillage.
Please, please will someone give that girl a saucy calendar deal or a reality television contract before she bursts?
The widow of PC Andrew Harper has started a campaign for a law that sees killers of police and emergency workers automatically jailed for life.
Lissie Harper, 29, is hoping to initiate an ‘Andrew’s Law’ after her husband was dragged to his death behind a car driven by three young men from the traveller community.
Lissie was devastated when they were cleared of murder and convicted of manslaughter. One can understand her anger — for if the men didn’t know they were towing Harper behind them, what did they think was on the end of the rope?
Driver Henry Long, 19, was jailed for 16 years, while Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, each got 13 years at the Old Bailey. They will serve about half that time and be out before they are 30. Assaults against the police and emergency services should result in the full force of the law and maximum sentences. We ask so much of our front-line responders, it is the least we can do in return.
The Attorney General’s office is now reviewing the sentences to decide if they have been unduly lenient. I hope they do the right thing, because an assault on the police is an assault on us all.
A police dog on his very first shift found a missing mother and baby in a remote area of Wales. Two-year-old Max, a German shepherd cross from the Dyfed-Powys Police dog training unit, located the family on the edge of a steep ravine.
‘Max remained focused throughout,’ said his proud handler, PC Pete Lloyd. I’d expect nothing less. Woof! Give that dog a biscuit.
Continuing my occasional series of cheap-as-chips beauty tips. If your hands are dry and chapped from constant sanitising — and frankly, whose are not? — get some of Marks & Spencer’s own-brand Almond Milk & Vanilla Hand Balm (I think I got mine in the toiletries section of the Food Hall).
It’s half the price of other brands — and drenching.