Royal Ballet choreographer Liam Scarlett took his own life after sexual misconduct claims
12 November 2021, 14:04 | Updated: 12 November 2021, 14:47
An inquest has heard that British choreographer Liam Scarlett died by suicide, following the ‘humiliation’ of multiple sexual misconduct allegations and press reports.
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He was found dead at his flat in Suffolk by his parents, on 12 April this year. Scarlett had suffered a cardiac arrest and brain injury, and died in Ipswich Hospital four days later. He had left notes for family members.
Suffolk coroner Jacqueline Devonish confirmed Scarlett died by suicide. She told the court: “It’s clear from his own words that there were feelings of humiliation around all of what happened in regards to those allegations.”
Royal Opera House’s head of legal and business affairs, Leah Hurst, said the allegations “included inappropriate physical contact in rehearsals and other settings, sexual behaviour out of the workplace that was felt to be inappropriate [and] improperly made casting decisions”.
Scarlett, 35, left the Royal Opera House in March 2020. An independent probe into accusations made against the dancer found “no matters to pursue”, and no criminal charges were brought against him.
Liam Scarlett had trained at the Royal Ballet School from the age of 11. He joined the Royal Opera House as a dancer in 2005, and became artist in residence in 2012.
Following claims of sexual misconduct, Scarlett was suspended from the Royal Opera House on full pay in September 2019. He was told in January 2020 that a disciplinary process would commence.
After further claims came out via a whistleblowing hotline. Scarlett approached the opera house through his lawyers and said he wanted to leave.
“We negotiated terms of departure with his solicitors, and he left on March 23, 2020,” Hurst said. She said that Scarlett was offered support, adding: “I believe we did support him during the process. It was a difficult process on all sides.
“We had not only to think of our duty of care towards Liam but also those individuals who came forward.”
Leah Hurst added that press reports at the time falsely claimed the allegations involved children. A Royal Opera House statement said there were “no matters in relation to students at the Royal Ballet School”.
Scarlett’s mother told the court: “We feel Liam would not have taken his life if his name hadn’t been dragged through the press with inaccurate allegations.”
Devonish added that Scarlett “clearly knew” that his production of Frankenstein had been called off by the Royal Danish Ballet, and that this may also have been a factor.
Separately, in response to claims published by The Times that the Royal Opera House had “covered up” allegations against Scarlett, a ROH spokeswoman said: “We had an obligation to protect the identities and welfare of all individuals involved, and it would therefore have been wholly inappropriate for us to disclose any specific details of the investigation during or after the process.”
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