Luther star, 26, took own life while out of work during lockdown, inquest hears

An actor who starred in crime drama Luther took his own while struggling with his loss of work during lockdown, an inquest has heard.

Luke Westlake was found dead on June 18, the morning after he messaged his ex-girlfriend threatening to take his own life.

After graduating from ArtsEd drama school, one of the UK’s top drama schools, in 2017, the 26-year-old went on to appear in the fifth series of Luther alongside Idris Elba as Lee Peck, and bagged roles in BBC dramas No Offence and Doctors.   

The inquest heard that Westlake was stressed about the loss of work resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, as well as 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 threatening to kill himself – something that was ‘not uncommon’, the coroner heard – and was found dead the following morning.

The cause of death was ruled 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.  

Dr John Pimm, a clinical lead for Oxford Health NHS foundation, said via video link: ‘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.

‘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.

Assistant Coroner Michael Walsh concluded the inquest with a verdict of suicide. 

He said: ‘LUke 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 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 his 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.’

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. 

They said: ’The scholarship was established when we realised many actors were being priced out of their career once they left training.

‘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.’ 

The BWH Agency, which represented Westlake said it was ‘with extreme sadness we honour our beautiful client Luke Westlake’, adding: ‘Luke was an exceptionally brilliant, instinctive and truly transformative actor whose passing is nothing short of a tragedy.’

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