The death of popular “Love Island” host Caroline Flack has sent shockwaves across the U.K. and again raised long-running concerns about broadcaster ITV’s support of cast members on the hit reality competition as well as the country’s intense media scrutiny of public figures.
Flack, one of the U.K.’s most recognizable reality hosts, was found dead in her apartment on Saturday, a lawyer for her family confirmed. Tributes have begun accumulating for Flack, a mainstay on British television, outside her home in East London.
In response to her death, ITV cancelled Saturday’s edition of “Love Island,” while Channel 4 confirmed it is pulling cosmetic surgery series “The Surjury,” which was to be hosted by Flack.
The 40-year-old star was set to face trial in just over two weeks, months after she was arrested and charged with assault in December following a domestic dispute with partner Lewis Burton. Flack, who appeared in court in December, denied all allegations.
However, shortly after the incident, ITV pulled the star from hosting the first winter version of “Love Island,” which premiered in early January, replacing her with Laura Whitmore, a close friend.
Flack wrote on her Instagram account on Dec. 24 that “this kind of scrutiny and speculation is a lot to take on for one person,” before adding that she was taking time out to “get feeling better and learn some lessons from situations I’ve got myself into.”
Flack’s death comes almost a year after the suicide of former “Love Island” contestant Mike Thalassitis and, previously, the reported suicide of contestant Sophie Gradon in June 2018. In response to the latter deaths, ITV rolled out an extensive plan to improve its aftercare practices for contestants, ensuring support long after they appear on the hit show, which is watched by millions every night in the U.K., where it airs across two months in the summer, and most recently, winter.
However, the broadcaster has received criticism for its handling of Flack’s assault charge in December. Dan Wootton, executive editor of British tabloid The Sun, wrote on Twitter on Saturday that Flack was “hung out to dry by ITV.”
“She was distraught they didn’t stand by her. And distraught about the lack of support she was given. Caroline and I were devastated to attend the funeral of our friend Mike Thalassitis last year. I cannot believe we are here again,” he wrote.
Wootton’s comments have received extensive criticism on social media, where users are highlighting the tabloid media’s negative coverage of Flack in recent months. The Sun has reportedly removed some pieces of online coverage in the wake of her death. The outlet posted an article as recently as Friday about a Valentine’s Day card mocking the presenter’s alleged assault of her partner, but that article is no longer available on The Sun website.
To Wootton’s point, however, ITV will receive its share of scrutiny in the wake of Flack’s death. The broadcaster said earlier this year that the door was “still open” for Flack to return to host the summer edition of “Love Island,” but has made no further announcements in regards to her future with the broadcaster.
This is in contrast to ITV presenter Ant McPartlin – one half of entertainment duo Ant and Dec – who was fined £86,000 for a drunk driving incident involving a young family in March 2018. He has since returned to hosting duties on the broadcaster.
Ahead of her death, Flack had reportedly received word that the Crown Prosecution Service was forging ahead with her trial, which was set to begin on March 4.
Francis Ridley of Money Talent Management, which managed Flack, said in a statement on Saturday night that the star had in recent months “been under huge pressure because of an ongoing case and potential trial which has been well reported.”
“The Crown Prosecution Service pursued this when they knew not only how very vulnerable Caroline was but also that the alleged victim did not support the prosecution and had disputed the CPS version of events. The CPS should look at themselves today and how they pursued a show trial that was not only without merit but not in the public interest. And ultimately resulted in significant distress to Caroline.”
In October, months before her assault charge, Flack marked World Mental Health Day with an Instagram post: “I’m lucky to be able to pick myself up when things feel s**t. But what happens if someone can’t. Be nice to people. You never know what’s going on. Ever.”