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Friday, November 18, 2022

Christine Flack: ‘I just want the police to say they got it wrong’ | Caroline Flack

Caroline Flack’s mother has said she cannot properly come to terms with her daughter’s death while questions remain over the Metropolitan police decision to charge the TV star with assault.

The police watchdog has instructed Scotland Yard to review a complaint that the Love Island and X Factor presenter was treated differently by the force when she was facing prosecution for assaulting her boyfriend because she was a celebrity.

Christine Flack believes the police decision to press ahead with charging her daughter over the incident – rather than giving her a caution as prosecutors advised initially – contributed to her taking her own life at her home in London on 15 February 2020.

“I can’t get her back,” Flack said in an interview with the Guardian. “I just want the police to come out and say: we really shouldn’t have gone back to the Crown Prosecution Service, there wasn’t enough to charge her. I don’t want anything from them other than to say they got it wrong.”

Flack, who first complained to the Met a month after Caroline’s death, said she cannot relent in her fight to clear her daughter’s name.

“Carrie wasn’t an abuser. I can’t give up because people are still writing that now, two years after her death. It needs someone in authority to come out and say that wasn’t true,” she said. “You just can’t put her to rest properly with all that negativity round her. You think about it every day. I find myself apologising for her, and I shouldn’t.”

The TV host was arrested in December 2019 and charged with attacking her boyfriend, Lewis Burton, with a lamp at their home in Islington, north London. She had pleaded not guilty, having previously told police that she accidentally hit Burton with a phone while he slept.

She killed herself two months later, days before the start of what her mother later called a “show trial”, since Burton had said he did not support a prosecution.

Last March, the Met told Christine Flack it was satisfied the service provided by the officer who made the decision to charge Caroline was acceptable.

But in August, after she asked the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) to review the case, it directed the Met to reinvestigate one element of her complaint: whether the decision was in line with standard practice, “and to establish if there was any difference in the way in which the process had been followed in this case on account of a person’s celebrity”.

Flack said she worried that negative coverage by the tabloid press, which had long critically scrutinised her daughter’s love life, and abusive social media posts could have affected the police’s judgment.

An inquest into the TV host’s death in 2020 heard that she had self-harmed at the scene of the alleged assault and was taken to hospital for a psychiatric assessment but deemed fit for police interview. “The police could see she tried to commit suicide that night,” her mother said. “She had hurt herself before and as a teenager attempted suicide.”

Caroline and Christine Flack.
Caroline and Christine Flack. Photograph: Christine Flack

A coroner ruled the presenter had taken her own life because she knew she was facing prosecution and feared the negative publicity the trial would attract. “She couldn’t get over that people might find out that she was actually vulnerable,” Flack added. “She did hide it really well.”

Flack said the unanswered questions about her daughter’s prosecution aggravated her grief. “I don’t sleep,” she said. “I don’t want to sound sorry for myself but I can cope with things because I take tablets from the doctor. And I’m frightened to stop taking those because I think it all becomes a bit real then.”

She added that she dreaded receiving monthly updates from the Met about the ongoing investigation. “Your stomach goes over,” she said. “Although I want answers, you’re frightened to look because you think well it’s just gonna be: ‘Oh, there was nothing wrong.’”

Despite their ongoing trauma, Flack, who lives in Norwich, said her family was able to remember Caroline warmly on the second anniversary of her death on Tuesday. Together with her eldest daughter, Lizzie, her son Paul and Caroline’s twin, Jody, she visited Caroline’s memorial bench in Norfolk.

“It was pouring with rain and windy. And Lizzie looked at me and said: ‘Mum, Carrie wouldn’t have come, would she?’ And I said: ‘No, she’d have made some excuse.’ We just laughed.”

In a statement confirming the reinvestigation of one element of Christine Flack’s complaint earlier this week, the Met said: “Our thoughts and sympathies remain with Caroline’s family.”

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