World famous artist David Hockney has been left in a “state of shock” after his assistant died just hours after collapsing at his luxury seaside home.

Police are investigating the mystery death of Dominic Elliott, 23, who was rushed to hospital after he was struck down ill at his employer’s home.

A close friend of the multi-millionaire painter said the artist was very distressed to learn of Elliott’s death which was described as “unexplained” by police.

“He saw him every day. It is very distressing he was a very bright, he was one of David’s assistants and would help him when he was setting up exhibitions,” the pal said.

“He helped with the Royal Academy show last year. It is a tragedy. “

It is believed detectives are planning to speak to the 75-year-old artist – who was like a “father” to Dominic – as part of their inquiries into his death.

It is thought Dominic may have arrived at the painter’s home after attending a party on Saturday and watching the crucial Six Nations decider between Wales and England.

The huge rugby fan – who loved his work and was said to have been delighted after meeting Sir Paul McCartney only last week – started vomiting yesterday morning.

He was reportedly rushed to Scarborough General Hospital, around 20 miles away, by the painter’s partner of 23 years, chef John Fitzherbert.

It is not known if Mr Hockney was at the house in Bridlington at the time.

Today the painter’s publicist, Erica Bolton, said: “He is incredibly upset about it. He (Dominic) has worked for him for quite a  long time. It is obviously a very sad day.

“He is a studio assistant – he is a very important person to David. He has worked for him over two years.”

She said Mr Hockney would not be saying anything, adding: “Like everyone else, he is in a state of shock. This is obviously a very sad day.”

A statement from the police said: “Humberside Police were contacted by Scarborough General Hospital, shortly after 6am yesterday morning (Sunday 17 March), after a Bridlington man had been taken to the hospital by a friend from an address in Kingston Road, Bridlington in a serious condition.

“The 23-year-old man was sadly pronounced dead at hospital and the police notified.

“The circumstances of the man’s death are not clear and officers are currently undertaking enquiries to establish events leading to his death.

“There were no signs of violence.”

David Hockneys house
Scene of tragedy: David Hockney’s house


A post mortem is due to take place tomorrow and toxicology reports could take up to six weeks.

But today friends said there was a fear his death may have been caused by drinking on top of underlying health problem.

His own father had a heart attack in 2001, aged just 41. His mum Karen, a solicitor, was being comforted by his two sisters and little brother.

Today Dominic’s grandfather, Walter Elliott, 83, from Hartlepool said they think he may have attended a party, but added: “We don’t know what happened but the suspicion is he had too much to drink.”

He said his grandson would do “lots of different things” for the painter, including looking after his dog.

“He didn’t live with him but did stay at his house quite often,” he explained.

“I think David looked upon him as a son. It was like a father-son relationship. 

“David even bought him a car once but Dominic actually wrote it off in a bad accident and was lucky to survive.”

His respected GP father, Ian Elliott, died in 2001 of a heart attack when he was 41 years old.

The school governor was on his rounds when he collapsed.

Dominic had worked full-time for the artist since quitting York university two years ago.

It is believed he had known Mr Hockney since his school days and was said to be delighted with his role, which often took him abroad.

Only days before his death he was introduced to keen painter Sir Paul McCartney when he arrived in Bridlington to meet his boss.

In 2008 Dominic featured in a painting by his boss.

The artwork shows the ginger-haired assistant dressed in blue trousers and short sleeve top sat on a chair, staring straight ahead.

David Hockney paint entitled Dominic Elliott
Mr Elliott helped the renowned British artist set up equipment and make tea for visitors and was also the subject of a painting

The same year the student was prosecuted and banned from driving for 55 days after reaching speeds of 106mph in Bridlington.

But his employer still trusted him with his car keys and Dominic would often act as his driver.

He is also thought to have his own keys to Mr Hockney’s seafront home in Bridlington.

Today friends paid tribute to the “cracking” lad. 

Local artist and friend of David Hockney’s, Tony Hogen, said: “I’ve known him since he was a boy, he was a really nice lad. It’s a big shock.”

Bridlington Rugby Club’s director of rugby, Rich Girking, said: “He was a cracking lad – an absolute bundle of fun and energy.

“He was constantly smiling and was a joy to be around.

“When he was out, he was the life and soul of the party, a fun-loving guy who was larger than life and everyone enjoyed his company.

“He only started playing rugby a couple of years ago but he learnt so quickly that he was called up to the first team squad. he was eager to learn and he was a great sportsman. It’s an absolute tragedy.”

Scarborough art gallery boss and painter Alan Stuttle, 74, who attended the Royal College of Art in London with David Hockney, said he thought the tragedy would hit the artist “like a sledge hammer”.

“I think it’s an absolute tragedy,” he continued. “He will learn to live with it. But he will never get over it. He is such a caring man.

“I know David has a lot of helpers and thinks an awful lot of them all. David is a well respected artist and brilliant draftsman and we are so sorry.

“It is such a tragedy for someone so young to have their lives cut short by this. And the awful thing is we don’t know the reason for it.

“How this has happened we do not know. It is just one of those awful things. I know David is a very caring and feeling man and I feel desperately sorry for him.”

Mr Stuttle’s own daughter Caroline was murdered while backpacking in Australia ten years ago.

“So I know what David is going through. I’m sure he will be surrounded by friends looking after him and comforting him.

“But I know too well how young people can lose their lives very, very quickly and how it hits you.”


Dominic Elliott Mystery as David Hockney’s assistant dies aged just 23 after … –
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