Choreographer killed himself after sexual misconduct claims, inquest hears

A former Royal Ballet choreographer killed himself after feeling “humiliation” over allegations of sexual misconduct against him, an inquest heard.

Liam Scarlett, 35, who was employed by the Royal Opera House as a dancer from 2005, then as artist in residence from 2012, was accused in 2019.

He was suspended on full pay in September 2019 while the allegations were investigated.

Leah Hurst, the head of legal and business affairs for the Royal Opera House, told an inquest in Ipswich, Suffolk, that there were a “variety” of claims.

“Broadly they included inappropriate physical contact in rehearsals and other settings, sexual behaviour out of the workplace that was felt to be inappropriate, improperly made casting decisions,” she said.

She said there were “sufficient grounds to proceed to a disciplinary process” and Scarlett was informed of this in January 2020. She said press reports at the time incorrectly said the allegations involved children.

She said that after the reporting, further allegations were received via a whistleblowing hotline.

She said that before the disciplinary process, Scarlett approached the Royal Opera House through his lawyers and said he wanted to leave.

“We negotiated terms of departure with his solicitors and he left on 23 March 2020,” Hurst said.

She said that Scarlett was offered support, adding: “We had not only to think of our duty of care towards Liam but also those individuals who came forward.”

Scarlett’s parents, Deborah and Laurence Scarlett, went to his flat in Bramford, near Ipswich, on 12 April this year, after each receiving text messages from him, and called emergency services after finding him there. He had left notes to family members.

He suffered a cardiac arrest and died at Ipswich hospital four days later of a brain injury.

Recording that Scarlett died by suicide, Suffolk’s area coroner, Jacqueline Devonish, said: “It’s clear from his own words that there were feelings of humiliation around all of what happened in regards to those allegations.”

She said the “main contributing factors to his decision” were the “serious nature of the allegations made by individuals at the Royal Opera House” and “press reports making public those allegations”.

Devonish said Scarlett “clearly knew” that his production of Frankenstein had been called off by the Royal Danish Ballet, ahead of its announcement on 16 April, and that this may also have been a factor.

His mother said she spoke to her son about the allegations after they appeared in the press. She said: “He told me they weren’t true and he couldn’t understand why people would make allegations against him.

“We feel Liam would not have taken his life if his name hadn’t been dragged through the press with inaccurate allegations.”

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