The biggest names in television led tributes last night after the sudden death of Love Island presenter Caroline Flack.
The 40-year-old broadcaster was found dead in her London home as her family confirmed she had taken her own life.
Last night, fans and TV colleagues questioned the care given to the troubled presenter after she was forced to stand down from the show after being charged with assaulting her boyfriend.
Her death, the third connected with the ITV2 show, came after turbulent months when she had been charged with assaulting her boyfriend Lewis Burton during a row in December. She later stepped down from presenting the winter series of the popular reality show.
News of her death stunned the world of TV. Presenter Edith Bowman tweeted: “I can’t quite believe what has happened. Caroline you didn’t deserve this. Such sad and tragic news. Love to all her family.”
This Morning presenter Phillip Schofield paid tribute to Ms Flack with a post on Instagram. He added text above a message which Ms Flack had posted on social media, which read: “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” Eamonn Holmes also expressed his shock, adding: “Has to be repercussions for Love Island now surely?”
Love Island, where housemates look for romance while sharing a holiday villa, has faced criticism after two former contestants, Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis, took their own lives in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Caroline was due to stand trial next month for allegedly assaulting her boyfriend Mr Burton. She had been replaced by Laura Whitmore on Love Island after fronting all five previous series of the popular programme, one of the most-watched reality shows in the UK since it launched in 2015. But her career dramatically came to a halt after her arrest.
Her family issued a statement last night, which said: “We can confirm that our Caroline has passed away.” The family’s lawyer later confirmed that she had taken her own life.
Ms Flack had been due to stand trial on March 4. She had appeared in December to plead not guilty. Former tennis player Mr Burton, 27, had begged for his partner not to be prosecuted after police were called to their London flat at 5.25am on December 14.
Ms Flack was reportedly left in need of hospital treatment after accidentally cutting herself on broken glass during the incident. During her previous court appearance, the prosecutor said that after being cautioned Ms Flack said “I did it” and claimed she would kill herself. The court heard Burton had been asleep in the early hours of December 12 and had been hit over the head with a lamp.
In recent weeks, Mr Burton has repeatedly denied that the couple had split and has defended her on social media, saying: “Caroline is my girlfriend. Anything else you read is untrue.”
Hours before her death, Mr Burton declared his love for her. Sharing a romantic picture of him and Ms Flack, 40, on a night out, he captioned the shot: “Happy valentines love you.” Ms Flack can be seen running her hands through her hair, while Lewis is wearing a pink shirt. She herself returned to Instagram last Thursday when she posted photographs cuddling her pet dog Ruby.
As part of her bail conditions, Ms Flack was not supposed to meet Mr Burton. She had also suggested she would be breaking her silence on recent reports about her personal life. She wrote: “I’m going to speak today…mine and my family’s life is no longer up for entertainment or gossip,” before changing her mind.
Last night, an episode of Love Island: Unseen Bits, a highlights show narrated by Scots comedian Iain Stirling, was dropped from the ITV2 schedule. ITV said: “Everybody at Love Island and ITV is shocked and saddened by this desperately sad news. Caroline was a much loved-member of the Love Island team and our sincere thoughts and condolences are with her family and friends.”
Former Love Island contestants Anton Danyluk and Laura Anderson last night took to social media to express their dismay. Anton, from Airdrie, tweeted: “I am in absolute shock. Caroline was the loveliest, kindest and most professional person I have ever met.”
Laura, from Stirling, added: “Caroline will always be a beautiful, funny, talented and unique woman with a lot of passion and heart for all she did. I hope we all learn something from this tragedy.”
Aside from her career, Ms Flack’s love life has made headlines over the years thanks to romances with the likes of Harry Styles and Prince Harry.
In 2011, she was linked to One Direction star Styles, who had been on The X Factor the previous year, when he was 17 and she was 31. In her autobiography, Ms Flack went into detail about how she met Prince Harry on a night out in 2009 through mutual friend Natalie Pinkham after she had split with a boyfriend.
She said they “spent the evening chatting and laughing”, but “once the story got out, that was it. We had to stop seeing each other. I was no longer Caroline Flack, TV presenter, I was Caroline Flack, Prince Harry’s bit of rough.”
Social media and reality TV criticised after latest tragedy
Caroline Flack’s sudden death raised fresh concern last night after a number of deaths by suicide linked to reality TV and the pressures of social media.
The Love Island presenter’s arrest and then decision to stand down from the current series created a maelstrom on social media. BBC breakfast presenter Dan Walker last night said abuse inflicted on social media must be addressed.
He said: “It must be heartbreaking for the family and friends of Caroline Flack to read tributes from some of those who hounded her. Our ‘cancel’ culture is brutal. We all have demons and flaws but we dehumanise each other and are then surprised when it is all too much.”
Love Island and other reality shows have come under pressure to offer better care and support for contestants. Former Love Island contestants Sophie Gradon, 32, and Mike Thalassitis, 26, took their lives after appearing on the ITV2 reality TV show.
At the time Ms Flack stepped down from the show, some fans and commentators said her treatment by TV bosses had been heavy-handed. They compared the handling of her case with that of ITV presenter Anthony McPartlin, who was allowed time to deal with the mental health issues that lay behind his drunk-driving conviction before returning to the screen.
Psychologist Graham Price said Caroline’s death was “tragic, sad, and did not need to happen”. He added: “When celebrities encounter difficulties, and because they live their lives under constant scrutiny because of social media, unless they have the training and resilience to accept what they can’t change, they can suffer dreadfully.
“People worry too much about things we cannot control, and often things are never as bad as we think they are. Celebrities live in a dog eat dog world, and they more than most, need to learn resilience.”
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