THE past 48 hours have been horrific for anyone who knew Caroline Flack or for anyone who felt they knew her as a result of her extraordinary career as TV’s sexy and flirty girl next door with more natural charm and likeability than anyone else on the box.
I was incredibly lucky to know Caroline for the past decade.
She was one of my favourite people in the industry. Down to earth, caring and so much fun. But above all else Caroline was deeply vulnerable.
She had a rollercoaster ride in showbusiness full of incredible highs she never expected and upsetting lows when she simply couldn’t understand some of the hate she was subjected to.
But through all of it Caroline never moaned about the criticism from the public or the media attention. She used it admirably and bravely to be able to make the points she felt she needed to without compromising her own irrepressible desire to find love and live a happy life.
For example, I remember nine years ago when she was being completely unnecessarily criticised by some members of the public for dating the pop star Harry Styles who happened to be younger than her.
She wanted to speak out to make the important point that judging her for dating a younger man was both ageist and sexist.
So as usual, we poured more than a few glasses of champagne and started to chat.
She told me that day in 2011: “Some people tend to want to see the negative immediately and thats what I find really strange. If two people like each other and get on, why does anyone else find a negative in it? I know its human nature for everyone to gossip. But why say its bad? No ones being hurt at all in any way.”
That is Caroline Flack summed up to me. Live and let live. Live life to the full. Don’t judge.
So I believe the judgement and hate and divisiveness since her death would have deeply upset Caroline.
Many of the online trolls who attacked her so relentlessly these past few weeks have turned their anger onto new targets especially the media.
But so much of whats been said has simply been untrue.
I supported Caroline publicly and privately for the past decade, but especially these last few weeks as the CPS pursued an entirely unnecessary show trial against her.
Many people have attempted to attack me over a front page story I ran in The Sun after ITV forced her to stand down as the presenter of her beloved Love Island.
As is far too often true in the hate-filled world of social media, the mob of professional trolls have not bothered to look at the facts.
This story was actually about ITV unfairly treating Caroline by taking away the show that she loved without a guarantee that she would return if she was found not guilty.
With Carolines full knowledge and support, I wrote about how ITV stars were furious she hadn’t received the same treatment as Ant McPartlin following his drink drive arrest.
I also wrote an opinion column with that story on December 17. It’s important that I share some of the words from that column now so you understand what my position REALLY was as it’s the total opposite of what you might have heard on social media.
I wrote: “ITV loves talking about the duty of care it has to the people who appear on its air…when it suits them.
“ITV also loves throwing presenters under the bus…when it suits them.
“If youre Caroline Flack or Jeremy Kyle the end has come the moment allegations against them or their show have appeared in the public domain.
“No time for a right of reply, let alone a trial or not guilty verdict.
“The apparent termination of their careers on the broadcaster has been brutal and swift, not allowing even the smallest opportunity for ITV: The Brand to be tarnished.
“Caroline most certainly has not been given the same opportunity as Ant McPartlin. Or even a phone call from ITV to check shes OK, I am told.
“Of course, I understand the allegations she is facing are serious. She needs help to address what happened and ensure she turns her life around.
“But to take away the show she helped make a huge commercial success for ITV before she has been found guilty of anything feels far too harsh.”
After writing that column in December, online trolls suggested I was wrong for defending someone facing an accusation of domestic abuse.
But then I received one of my regular messages from Caroline. This time, rather than any words, she sent me a succession of 22 giant love hearts.
I knew then and I know now that Caroline Flack was innocent.
She deserved to keep her job hosting Love Island. Or at the very least only be suspended and able to return to the show once she was cleared for the summer series. Caroline was not given that assurance by ITV.
The CPS should have dropped their pursuit of Caroline and a pointless show trial that clearly wasn’t in the public interest.
The cost was too great. A forced separation from her heartbroken boyfriend Lewis Burton made no sense.
Caroline just wanted to be heard. She told me many times in the last few weeks how she deserved to be able to tell her story and wanted to sit down for an interview with me to reveal publicly what really happened, but she was unable to legally.
She also told me she felt her life had been swept away from under her feet but assured me she would keep positive and come back stronger.
So on so many levels it is truly senseless that this is now where we are at. The loss of Caroline is too much to bear. I understand that, as a result, people are desperately looking to cast blame.
But the type of horrendous attacks over the past three days do not represent Caroline, a spirited superstar who loved spreading love.
- If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please call the Samaritans for free on116123