A coroner has ruled Love Island host Caroline Flack took her own life at an inquest into the TV star's death.
Coroner Mary Hassell said the fact the alleged assault case was "played out in the national press" was "incredibly difficult for her", and she feared the loss of her hard-fought career.
The 40-year-old presenter was found dead at her home in Stoke Newington, north-east London, on February 15 2020.
An outpouring of grief followed the Strictly Come Dancing star's tragic death.
On February 14 of this year, the former Love Island host had discovered prosecutors were going to proceed with the assault charge after she hit her boyfriend, Lewis Burton, with her phone while he slept following concerns he had been cheating on her.
PA reports friends said the star was expecting the charge to be dropped after her lawyers applied for the case to be thrown out.
Returning a determination of suicide at Poplar Coroner's Court on Thursday, the coroner said: "Although her general fluctuating (mental) state was a background and important in her death, 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."
Helplines and support groups
The following are helplines and support networks for people to talk to, mostly listed on the NHS Choices website
- Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you're feeling, or if you're worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Childline (0800 1111) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won't show up on your phone bill.
- PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is an organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.
- Mind (0300 123 3393) is a charity providing advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.
- Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts.
- Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying.
- Hub of Hope is the UK’s most comprehensive national mental health support database. Download the free app, visit hubofhope.co.uk or text HOPE to 85258 to find relevant services near you.
- Young Persons Advisory Service – Providing mental health and emotional wellbeing services for Liverpool’s children, young people and families. tel: 0151 707 1025 email: email@example.com
- Paul's Place – providing free counselling and group sessions to anyone living in Merseyside who has lost a family member or friend to suicide. Tel: 0151 226 0696 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Weeping, Ms Flack's mother Chris Flack told the coroner via videolink: "I totally agree, I think you got it spot on."
Mrs Flack had accused the police and prosecutors of having it "in for" her daughter, accusing them of taking her to court due to her "celebrity status".
Mrs Flack said her famous daughter killed herself as a consequence of Detective Inspector Lauren Bateman's personal decision to appeal against the plan to give her a caution for assault.
Mrs Flack accused prosecutors of wanting to proceed with the case, despite concerns about the 40-year-old's mental health.
Mrs Flack told deputy chief Crown prosecutor Lisa Ramsarran on Thursday: "After listening to you and the first lady (Ms Bateman), I feel even more that you had it in for Caroline.
"I now know how Caroline felt and it is not very nice."
Ms Ramsarran said the code for prosecutors was correctly applied, while both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service said they would not do anything differently.
Caroline Flack admitted hitting Mr Burton when officers were called to her home in London in December 2019, saying she did so because she found out he was cheating on her, the inquest heard.
Prosecutors decided to charge Ms Flack with assault after Ms Bateman, the Metropolitan Police inspector on duty at the time, contested their initial decision.
The inquest heard prosecutor Kate Weiss reviewed the decision to charge Ms Flack a week after the assault.
She cited various factors, such as the violence involved, that Mr Burton was sleeping, that a caution is rare for a domestic violence case, and that police said Ms Flack showed no remorse in interview, when coming to the conclusion that a caution was not appropriate.
Ms Weiss wrote: "In light of these factors, I believe a caution is not appropriate."
Coroner Ms Hassell said she understood if Ms 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: "I don't share your view that we are treating this defendant any different from anyone else."
The inquest heard Ms Flack's mental health deteriorated and she killed herself in February 2020, weeks before she was due to stand trial.
In an impassioned examination of Ms Bateman's evidence, Mrs Flack told Ms Bateman: "If it had been… an ordinary person, you wouldn't have prosecuted.
"This girl killed herself because you put an appeal through."
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Ms Bateman denied the coroner's suggestion that she was motivated by Ms Flack's celebrity status to charge her.
Ms Bateman said: "I was not biased and I treat everyone the same."
The inquest heard Ms Flack was found with a self-imposed cut to her wrist when police arrived on the scene of the alleged assault in December, and told officers: "I hit him (Mr Burton), he was cheating on me."
On Wednesday, friends described how Ms Flack had serious concerns about her trial in March, but had met with her lawyers on February 14 when she thought the case might be dropped.
However, it was then that her legal team outlined the CPS's decision, made the previous day, to go ahead with court action.
Ms Flack was found hanged at her home the following day.
If you have been affected by any of the details mentioned in this story there are people who can help you.
Most people grieve when they lose something or someone important to them.
The way grief affects you depends on lots of things, including what kind of loss you have suffered, your upbringing, your beliefs or religion, your age, your relationships, and your physical and mental health.
Grieving is a totally normal process but there are way to get help if you need support.
Your GP is a good place to start. They can give you advice about other support services, refer you to a counsellor, or prescribe medication if needed.
Or you can contact support organisations directly, such as Cruse Bereavement Care (0808 808 1677) Samaritans (116 123) or Love Jasmine.
Prosecutor Ms Ramsarran said the CPS looked at Ms Flack's mental health when the case was first reviewed, including evidence that the television personality self-harmed at the crime scene when she allegedly assaulted Mr Burton.
However, it was decided it was in the public interest to authorise a charge of assault by beating, particularly considering the domestic violence allegation.
Ms Flack's death prompted an outpouring of sorrow from celebrity friends, colleagues and fans, who referenced one of Ms Flack'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.
To contact the Samaritans, call 116 123, email email@example.com or click here to view the website.