SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Woke in Los Angeles to the shocking news that Caroline Flack has taken her own life at just 40 years old.
After decades working in the news business, I don’t shock easily but this left me, like everyone who knew her, absolutely reeling.
Caroline was a mate of mine. We weren’t close friends, but we got on well, frequently met up at showbiz bashes, and exchanged irregular text messages about life and the universe.
Caroline was whip-smart, warm, funny and laughed very loudly and very often – usually at my expense
I first got to know her during a ‘Night Of Heroes’ Army charity dinner at the Imperial War Museum in London in 2009, where I sat between Caroline and Keeley Hawes. Our table also fielded those other noted shrinking violets Bradley Walsh, Kate Garraway, Vernon Kay and Coronation Street star Bill Roache, and it was an absolutely hilarious night.
Caroline, like Keeley, was whip-smart, warm, funny and laughed very loudly and very often – usually at my expense. She also wept openly at several of the incredibly moving stories of military heroism that we heard during the awards part of the evening, revealing a heart-on-a-sleeve emotional side to her sparkly personality.
We sat together again at a Glamour Awards dinner a few years later where she drank me under the table and was outrageously good fun.
And that was always how I thought of Caroline – a great laugh who liked to live her life to the fullest, partying as hard as she worked.
But she had her well-documented demons, too – like many people in showbusiness – and they all seemed to collide with the catastrophic sequence of events that led to the collapse of her professional and personal life and ultimately, horrifically, to her suicide.
I was due to see Caroline at my annual Christmas pub party on December 19.
She had replied immediately to my invite saying: ‘Yeh, love to! See you there.’
But a few days before it took place, she was charged with assaulting her boyfriend Lewis Burton during an early-hours bust-up at her flat.
Then she was forced to step down from her job presenting Love Island, a show she adored as much as I hate it. (‘You just wish that you were good-looking enough to be a contestant!’ she once taunted me, incorrectly.)
‘You OK?’ I texted her as the furore raged so ferociously that she was forced to move out of her home and stay in a hotel.
‘It’s been a rough few days,’ she replied, with a crying emoji.
‘So sorry,’ I said. ‘You must be gutted. Just keep your head down for a bit and it will all blow over. And if you want a consoling drink with friends, you’d obviously still be very welcome at my party.’
She thanked me, but on the day of the party, I received another text: ‘Don’t think I’ll make it tonight. I can’t even leave the hotel, let alone go home. This has been the worst time of my life. And for what? Throwing a phone in anger. It’s so hard for one person to take.’
‘Understood,’ I replied. ‘It’s all a massive over-reaction, and it will pass. So sorry you’re going through hell but having been through a few tough times myself, I can assure you that you’ll get through it.’
And then I wrote words that seem so horribly ironic now: ‘At the end of the day, it’s just bloody telly and nobody died.’
The last contact I had with Caroline came two weeks ago after David Walliams made an unnecessarily cheap dig at her expense at the National Television Awards that was met with loud booing from the audience.
I immediately defended her on Twitter and got a message from a friend of hers later that night saying: ‘Caroline wanted me to thank you for your kind words and very much appreciates them, she is very grateful for your support.’
She took hurtful jibes to heart.
Last October, the ‘activist’ actress Jameela Jamil attacked Caroline’s new (now cancelled) plastic surgery-themed Channel 4 show The Surjury without having even seen it, accusing her of being involved in something that would ‘prey on people’s insecurities’.
This led to many of Jamil’s one million followers bombarding Caroline with abuse to the extent that Caroline messaged me at the time to say: ‘I’m struggling with Jameela, the hate she aims at me…’
(With an extraordinary lack of self-awareness, the same Jameela Jamil is now leading calls for the Government to investigate ‘harassment’ waged by the media against Caroline.)
I don’t know what pushed Caroline over the edge, though I strongly suspect it had less to do with media coverage of her travails (she was good friends with many of the journalists that social media – which savaged her while she was alive – has rushed to blame since her death in its usual viciously hypocritical way) and more to do with the Crown Prosecution Service telling her the day before she died it was proceeding with her trial, despite her boyfriend (whom she was banned from contacting) saying he didn’t want to press charges and was standing 100 per cent behind her.
She’d lost the job she loved, wasn’t allowed to see or talk to the man she loved, and was now facing the very public humiliation of what would undoubtedly have been a very lurid court case.
Despite widespread support from her family and many concerned friends, it obviously all got too much for her. And that’s just an absolute soul-crushing tragedy.
RIP Caroline, you were a lovely person and I’ll miss you.