David Hockney 'in shock' following death of friend and studio assistant Dominic Elliott

Police have launched an investigation after Mr Elliott, 23, fell ill at the artist's Bridlington home

David Hockney was said to be in a “state of shock” last night following the unexplained death of his close friend and studio assistant.

Dominic Elliot, 23, was taken ill in the early hours of Sunday morning at the artist’s home in Bridlington, East Yorkshire.

It is understood that the popular rugby player, who cut a distinctive figure in the seaside town with his ginger curly hair, was driven 20 miles to Scarborough General hospital after he began vomiting by the 75-year-old painter’s long-term partner.

Mr Elliot later died in hospital and a post mortem examination is due to be carried out tomorrow (Tuesday) although toxicology results could take several weeks. Among the lines of inquiry being followed by police are suggestions that Mr Elliot may have been drinking prior to his death or that he had an underlying health complaint.

Mr Hockney’s publicist Erica Bolton said Mr Elliot had been a “very important person” to the artist and had worked with him for more than two years.

“He is incredibly upset about it. Like everybody else he is in a state of shock,” she said.

The younger man, who was born and grew up in the town, had assisted the painter with lighting and other technical issues as he worked in the open air painting the wide open spaces and vast skies of the Yorkshire Wolds countryside.

Britain’s greatest living artist was inspired by the landscape during visits to see his mother from his home in the United States. It provided the subject for some of his most acclaimed later work including the monumental Bigger Trees Near Warter which the artist recently donated to the Tate. He “painted” Mr Elliot in 2008 as part of a series of portraits completed with an iPad app.

Friends said he saw his role as assistant to Mr Hockney as a “dream job” and had travelled extensively with the Pop Art pioneer who returned to the Yorkshire coast full time following the death of his mother. He had helped him prepare for last year’s blockbuster show at the Royal Academy, which was entitled A Bigger Picture, and the pair saw each other most days.

Last week friends said he had met Sir Paul McCartney and was a trusted member of the artist’s inner circle who had his own key to Mr Hockney’s detached house overlooking the North Sea where yesterday the blinds were drawn and a number of people came and went.

A police car was parked outside the house for five hours on Sunday and Mr Hockney is expected to be spoken to by police about the circumstances leading up to his assistant’s death. It is not known whether he was at home at the time his friend was taken ill.

The former York University business student had his own home nearby. He returned to Bridlington after his studies and was part of a prominent and respected family. His father, a local doctor died of a heart attack, suddenly in 2001 aged in his 40s.  His family were too upset to comment on his death.

A keen sportsmen, Mr Elliot played rugby and hockey. At Bridlington Rugby Club where he was described as a “cracking lad” and the “life and soul of the party”, chairman Gordon Morrice paid tribute to Mr Elliot.

"Dominic was a valued member of our club, a good player with great potential. With his size and ability he could easily have established himself as a first team regular. He was a popular lad and had so many friends at the club, he said."

It is believed he was driven to the hospital by Mr Hockney’s partner of 23-years John Fitzherbert, a former chef. The couple also have a home in London.

Locals said the Bradford-born artist who spent most of his career in California, was regularly seen walking up and down the promenade to buy cigarettes or dining at a local café with members of his team.

Mr Elliot’s close family friend Leanne Nelson, described him as a “special person” and said everyone that knew him was devastated by his death. “He was one of those people that would do anything for you. He was the most genuine person, so many people loved him and it has affected so many people,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Humberside Police said there had been no signs of violence:  "The circumstances of the man's death are not clear and officers are currently undertaking inquiries to establish events leading to his death,” she said.  

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
filmReview: Gyllenhaal, in one of his finest performances, is funny, engaging and sinister all at once
Arts and Entertainment
Shelley Duvall stars in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining
filmCritic Kaleem Aftab picks his favourites for Halloween
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington has been given a huge pay rise to extend his contract as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones
tv
Life and Style
Taste the difference: Nell Frizzell tucks into a fry-up in Jesse's cafe in east London
food + drinkHow a bike accident left one woman living in a distorted world in which spices smell of old socks and muesli tastes like pork fat
Sport
Luke Shaw’s performance in the derby will be key to how his Manchester United side get on
footballBeating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Life and Style
Google's doodle celebrating Halloween 2014
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
filmThis Halloween, we ask what makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?
News
peopleFarage challenges 'liberally biased' comedians to 'call him a narcissist'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes