David Hockney may be questioned as mystery surrounds death of assistant Dominic Elliott
MYSTERY surrounds the sudden death of a 23-year-old man at the home of East Yorkshire's most celebrated artist.
David Hockney's assistant and friend Dominic Elliott, 23, died at Scarborough General Hospital on Sunday morning.
He was taken there by a friend after falling seriously ill at the world-renowned painter's home in Bridlington.
Humberside Police say the circumstances of his death are "unclear" and investigations are continuing.
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The Mail understands Mr Hockney may himself be questioned by police.
Mr Elliott's grandfather Walter Elliott, 83, said he believed he had been at a party.
He said: "We don't know what happened but the suspicion is he had too much to drink.
"He didn't live with him but did stay at his house quite often.
"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."
The artist himself was said to be "incredibly upset" over what had happened.
His publicist Erica Bolton said Mr Elliott had been a "very important person" in his life and they had worked together for more than two years.
She said: "Like everybody else he is in a state of shock."
Mr Elliott was a keen sportsman, playing for Driffield Hockey Club and Bridlington Rugby Club.
Adam Saltonstall, captain of the hockey club, played with him for seven years.
"Dominic was a fantastic guy and much-loved member of Driffield Hockey Club, who will be sadly missed by everyone in the hockey family," he said.
"He was a larger-than-life character with a heart of pure gold who made people smile by simply being around him. This horrific news has thoroughly rocked the club and left a huge hole in everyone's lives."
The hockey club has cancelled training this week as a mark of respect and there will be a one-minute silence at this weekend's matches.
Mr Saltonstall said: "Dominic was due to play for us last Saturday and Sunday and was included in the first-team squad for the last game of the season, this coming weekend. He would have wanted us to carry on and play the game this weekend.
"It was both shock and horror when I got a call on Sunday about what had happened.
"I didn't believe it at first."
Mr Elliott is believed to have been introduced to 75-year-old Mr Hockney by a friend to help him with a series of works around the seaside town.
He was also the subject of a portrait by the artist in 2008.
"David Hockney is a quiet person and Dominic respected that by not speaking about the job," said Mr Saltonstall.
"The only time he did was when Dominic sat for a portrait.
"He was glowing and at the next training session came with a picture of the portrait. I think it was one of his proudest moments."
Mr Elliott is believed to have gone to Mr Hockney's house at the weekend after going out on a night out with friends in Bridlington.
His grandmother Betty Kent, 84, said he had been out with "arty types".
She said: "He'd been to his mother's in the afternoon as his washing machine was broken and he needed his jeans and clothes as he was going out.
"He was going out with his mates."
Gordon Morrice, Bridlington Rugby Club chairman, said: "He played for us for four years and was such a popular lad. He didn't speak much about his work with David Hockney, but I know he worked as his assistant helping set up equipment.
"He was helping him for quite a long time – maybe four years."
Mr Elliot was also popular in his local pub, The Bull and Sun.
Barman Carl Beevers said: "He was a really nice guy.
"He was friendly, happy, he was always joking and smiling. He used to come into the pub two or three times a week with friends."
Friends said he met Sir Paul McCartney last week and was a trusted member of the artist's inner circle, with his own key to Mr Hockney's house.
A post-mortem examination was due to take place today to establish the cause of death.
A Humberside Police spokesman said: "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."