Luke Westlake had messaged his ex-girlfriend threatening to take his own life the night before he was found hanged, a coroner heard on Thursday.
After graduating from one of the UK’s top drama schools, the 26-year-old went on to appear in Luther and snagged roles in other BBC dramas No Offence and Doctors.
But the inquest heard that the Westlake was stressed about the loss of work resulting from the coronavirus pandemic and suffering following the breakdown of a long distance relationship.
Westlake, who lived in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, tried to take his own life in late April and again in June, the assistant coroner heard.
Just over a week after the June attempt, Westlake messaged his ex-girlfriend Hannah Llewelyn threatening to kill himself – something that was ‘not uncommon’, the coroner heard.
However, the young actor was found dead the next morning on June 18.
An actor who appeared in crime drama Luther alongside Idris Elba killed himself while being out of work during lockdown, an inquest has heard. Luke Westlake had messaged his ex-girlfriend threatening to take his own life the night before he was found hanged, a coroner heard on Thursday
The cause of death was concluded as hanging following a post mortem examination, and a toxicologist discovered a substantial amount of THC in Westlake’s body, indicating heavy cannabis use.
The inquest at Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, was told that in the months before his death, Westlake had been desperately seeking therapy for childhood abuse and was left frustrated after being denied it as specialists first wanted to deal with his drug and alcohol issues.
‘If someone is using, it will be very problematic for them to have that treatment. You should try to deal with the drug and alcohol problem and stabilise it for a reasonable amount of time,’ Dr John Pimm, a clinical lead for Oxford Health NHS foundation, said via video link.
‘The key issue is that in trauma therapy, you will delve into very distressing things from someone’s past – in order to do that they need to be in a really good place.
‘If you have not done the pre-work it is very risky, it is like going into surgery without the pre work.’
After graduating from one of the UK’s top drama schools, the 26-year-old went on to appear in Luther (pictured) and snagged roles in other BBC dramas No Offence and Doctors. But the inquest heard that the Westlake was stressed about the loss of work resulting from the coronavirus pandemic and suffering following the breakdown of a long distance relationship
Westlake appeared in the first episode of Luther season 5, which aired on the BBC in 2019, two years after he graduated from drama school
Assistant Coroner Michael Walsh, sitting in front of parents Bridgette and Lee Westlake, concluded the inquest with a verdict of suicide.
He said: ‘Like was aged 26 years at the time of his death. He has a history of anxiety and depression and substantial misuse by way of alcohol and cannabis, used as a coping mechanism.
‘He had reported childhood abuse and did not agree with plans of clinicians to deal with substance abuse before he had some treatment for trauma when he was younger.
‘Luke found it difficult to deal with stressful triggers – his relationship and his employment. It was noted that it was not uncommon for him to threaten to harm himself – such an occasion occurred on June 17.
‘Unfortunately, he was found the next day with a ligature around his neck at 8.46am. He had threatened to take his life and had taken cannabis shortly before he died.’
Westlake graduated in 2017 from ArtsEd drama school, whose alumni include the musician Yungblood.
He had early successes playing the recurring role of Adam Miller in ITV’s Dark Heart as well as Dean Wayne in the third series of No Offence.
A spokesman for the esteemed drama school said on Twitter: ‘Today we pay tribute to Luke Westlake, BA acting 2017 graduate. A passionate individual, creative soul and brilliant actor, we are immensely saddened to hear of his passing.’
The BWH Agency, which represented Westlake said it was ‘with extreme sadness we honour our beautiful client Luke Westlake’.
The inquest at Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, was told that in the months before his death, Westlake had been desperately seeking therapy for childhood abuse and was left frustrated after being denied it as specialists first wanted to deal with his drug and alcohol issues
‘Luke was an exceptionally brilliant, instinctive and truly transformative actor whose passing is nothing short of a tragedy.’
Drama school classmates have set up the The Luke Westlake Scholarship, rewarding a student with more than £3,000 worth of artistic and financial support for their final year of training and first years in the industry.
‘The scholarship was established when we realised many actors were being priced out of their career once they left training,’ they said.
‘This year, we have renamed the scholarship in memory of Luke Westlake, a friend and a talented actor. A diligent, fierce, working-class actor, he represents everything the scholarship stands for.’
A JustGiving page set up in his memory has raised almost £4,000 to go to mental health services for those in the performing arts.
‘Luke had a passion for acting from a very young age and pursued this as his career path,’ the page read.
‘He had so much talent and so much more to give and it is devastating to us all that sadly he shortened his life.
‘Those of you who knew Luke well will know he battled with his emotions and we wish to raise awareness of mental health issues within acting and the performing arts and to bring to the forefront of people’s minds how deeply troubled young minds can be.’
If you have been affected by the issues in this story, you can call Samaritans on 116 123 or visit www.samaritans.org.