On September 28, 2015, the life of famous comic actor Jim Carrey was suddenly turned upside down in the worst way possible. The body of his ex-girlfriend, 30-year-old make-up artist Cathriona White, had been found at her L.A. residence. The young woman had, it seemed, deliberately overdosed on prescription drugs, and her death left a huge hole in many people’s lives. And unfortunately, neither Carrey nor White’s family have as of yet been able to put the tragedy behind them. That is because many questions have arisen since White’s tragic passing, and they’re all incredibly difficult to answer.
Irish-born White was married but estranged from her husband Mark Burton. She had started dating Carrey in March 2012 after meeting him at a Guns N’ Roses gig. But things didn’t go smoothly for the couple, and less than a year later they had split up. And it wasn’t an amicable breakup, with White accusing Carrey of giving her sexually transmitted diseases. The actor, however, refused any responsibility.
And yet there appeared to be no hard feelings, on Carrey’s side at least, when he spoke to the Irish Independent in March 2013. “I did go out with an Irish girl,” he said. “We’re not seeing each other anymore. But she is lovely.” Unfortunately White, for her part, reportedly sank into depression once the relationship ended. Her former husband later noted that she had a history of complex mental health issues.
White and Carrey reconciled in late 2014, but the relationship proved much more complicated this time. Indeed, White reportedly told Carrey she was sorry for her earlier accusations in a bid to keep the peace. But once again, it wasn’t to last. This time, unfortunately, the breakup had an even worse impact on White’s mental health. However, other factors, too, may have contributed to her suicide. Because when White decided to take her own life, it was on the third anniversary of her father’s passing.
But White’s suicide also took place mere days after her break-up from Carrey – an unimaginably difficult thing for the actor to have to face. However, the difficult times were just beginning for the Ace Ventura star. Not least because when White had killed herself, it emerged she had done so with prescription drugs that actually belonged to Carrey. Police found messages on her phone from the actor, demanding to know where his pills were.
Once the news hit the public sphere, Carrey released a statement to the media. He said he was “shocked and deeply saddened” at White’s death. “She was a truly kind and delicate Irish flower, too sensitive for this soil, to whom loving and being loved was all that sparkled. My heart goes out to her family and friends and to everyone who loved and cared about her. We have all been hit with a lightning bolt.”
White’s funeral took place on October 10, 2015, in Ireland. Carrey was present, and so were the cameras – they followed him as he helped carry her coffin from the church. White was laid to rest next to her father, Pat, and the mourners returned to their ordinary lives. However, it soon became clear that the hole left by White’s suicide would be one not easily filled.
First came the release of White’s suicide note. It was leaked to the celebrity news website TMZ, and before long the entire world had seen it. It made for upsetting reading. “I’ve spent 3 days now in disbelief that you’re not here. I can go on brokenhearted and try to put the pieces back. I could, I just don’t have the will this time,” the note read. “I’m sorry you felt I wasn’t there for you.”
“I tried to give you my best part… I don’t really know about burial or that sort of thing. You are my family so whatever you choose will be fine. Please forgive me. I’m just not for this world,” the note concluded. Apart from the sheer awfulness of having his girlfriend’s last words handed over for the internet to pick apart, Carrey also had another problem to deal with. White had written that he was her family, but she had family in Ireland too. And they were understandably upset.
White’s mother, Brigid Sweetman, was among them. She met Carrey for the first time at her daughter’s funeral. There was no bad blood between them at that point – she even told People in November 2015 that he was “a very nice man.” But things soon soured between them to an irreconcilable point. And White’s estranged husband, Burton, was also involved.
In September 2016, news hit that Burton was suing Carrey for the wrongful death of his late wife. The lawsuit alleged that Carrey had purchased the prescription drugs from a doctor illegally and under a false alias, and had then given White access to them even though he knew of her mental health problems. He had then, Burton and his lawyers claimed, tried to conceal his “involvement and culpability in Ms. White’s untimely and tragic death.”
The following month, White’s mom filed her own claim against the actor. Hers went even further in condemning Carrey, claiming not only that he had supplied White with the drugs, but that he had emotionally abused her too. The document mentioned, among other things, that Carrey had given White three sexually transmitted diseases and lied to her about them, later sending “Hollywood lawyers” her way “in an effort to silence her.”
“Jim Carrey should be ashamed of what he did to my daughter,” Sweetman said in a statement to US Weekly. “And he should be ashamed for how he has used his Hollywood attorneys to badmouth Cat’s husband, Mark, with the hope that nobody will hold him responsible for what he did.” After news of Burton’s lawsuit reached him on September 16, Carrey had labeled Burton’s lawsuit a “heartless attempt to exploit me.”
Carrey and his attorney Marty Singer spoke out, quickly, against the accusations. “It is understandable that a mother who has lost a daughter will look for someone to blame,” Singer told US Weekly. “But in directing her grief and rage at Jim Carrey and joining this attempt to capitalize on Cathriona’s suicide, Mrs. Sweetman is heading down the same dark path as Mark Burton.”
That statement was a positively polite one, however, compared to the words that were flung around as the lawsuits dragged on. On October 16, 2016, Carrey submitted a declaration claiming that Sweetman had become “angry and bitter” when he refused to buy her a house, and that had been her motive for filing the suit. He also claimed that White had, in a moment of vindictiveness, fabricated the whole notion that he’d given her STDs.
Sweetman’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, immediately bit back in a statement of his own. “Earlier today, Jim Carrey filed a baseless motion with the court as part of his continued attack on a grieving mother. His conduct is disgusting and dishonest. Who attacks a mother of a dead girl?” he said. “When he is forced to testify under oath, the ugly truth will be laid bare. We are confident that the court will see through the nonsense Carrey is peddling.”
It was becoming increasingly clear that, tragically, all of White’s loved ones would soon be facing off against each other in court. And under the bitterest terms possible, too. In October 2016, the Daily Mail reported that Jim Carrey had requested Mark Burton be sanctioned by the court for “playing dirty legal games to shake him down for money.” Carrey had been adamant for a while that White’s family were primarily concerned with his fortune.
On June 1, 2017, it was announced that the trial would take place on April 26, 2018 – almost three years after White’s death. There were also reports that Carrey had demanded $372,000 as a “bond” from Sweetman in order to cover his travel and expenses while the trial took place. But by the end of the month, it was reported he had dropped that particular bid.
The lawyers for both sides talked to the Irish Post on June 29, 2017. Raymond Boucher, a lawyer for Carrey, said “There’s no question that the allegations against him are absolutely false… The suggestion that she took her life because of him is absurd.” Avenatti, however, told a different story. “Mr. Carrey will soon have to face a very public trial here in Los Angeles and attempt to account for his conduct. We are counting the days.”
There is still a long way to go before the trial begins, and there’s no knowing what new information may come out in the lead up to April 26, 2018. But one thing is clear – the whole affair is incredibly tragic and distressing for all concerned. And if any lessons are to be learned from it, it’s that depression is a very serious condition that needs to be watched for and treated in order to prevent any more stories like that of Cathriona White.