Downing Street is being urged to present proof that the UK Prime Minister’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings did not make a second trip from London to Durham during the COVID-19 lockdown, The Guardian reports.
This comes as two of four witnesses of alleged sightings of the political strategist in the north-east of England, supposedly in breach of government guidelines amid the pandemic, complained that Durham police have neglected to adequately investigate their claims.
The two witnesses, Clare Edwards, a nurse practitioner, and her husband, allege they spotted a man they believe was Dominic Cummings on 19 April in Houghall woods just outside Durham.
The couple gave statements to Durham police over the claims on 25 May, feeding into earlier allegations by a previous witness that Cummings was seen with his wife in the same location on 19 April, at about 8.30 am.
A fourth witness to the alleged sighting subsequently came forward, insisting that the political strategist was present in the area between the woods and the home of Cummings’ parents on the same day, between 11.15 am and 11.30 am.
According to a report by The Guardian, another witness claimed to have seen Cummings back in north London, on Hampstead Heath, later on 19 April.
Nevertheless, Durham police found “insufficient evidence” that Dominic Cummings was in Durham on 19 April.
Clare and Dave Edwards have since made a subject access request under the Data Protection Act, hoping to shed light on how their complaint was followed up.
According to the outlet, most of the police correspondence pertaining to their original complaints was redacted and labelled “official – sensitive”.
Dave Edwards was cited as complaining that their testimony was not taken seriously, as police, for one, had reportedly failed to check automatic number recognition cameras for the movements of Cummings’ car on the weekend in question.
On 5 August the couple filed a complaint with the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
“Given the high-profile nature of this issue, it is inconceivable that this matter has not been followed up thoroughly. We have no personal issue with Mr. Cummings or his family, but we do feel that Durham police’s handling of our complaint is below the standard we would expect from our local constabulary,” the outlet quotes the couple as saying.
‘Lockdown Breach’ Allegations
Dominic Cummings has consistently dismissed accusations that he returned to Durham on 19 April, after previously coming back to London from a trip to his parents’ farm that was exposed by the Guardian and the Daily Mirror as an alleged breach of lockdown, sparking a furore.
Although Cummings has suggested that both phone data and CCTV footage could prove he was in London at the time of the alleged sightings, the proof is yet to be made public by either him or No. 10 Downing Street.
The UK Prime Minister’s chief adviser found himself in the crosshairs over his initial trip to Durham in late March during a national lockdown in the country, set in place in an effort to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the time, The Guardian reported that Cummings, his wife and their child had defied government guidance that anyone with symptoms of the disease refrain from leaving their house for any reason, travelling 420 km (260 miles) from London to the northeastern city of Durham to stay with his parents despite his wife having displayed coronavirus symptoms.
Cummings had justified his actions by saying that he and his wife sought to explore childcare options if both of them fell ill with the respiratory disease.
Amid the uproar, Cummings faced calls to resign from across the political spectrum, with Downing Street defending his actions and Boris Johnson expressing support for his aide.
While not making specific comments regarding allegations that Cummings was in Durham on 19 April, a statement from Downing Street said:
“Durham constabulary have made clear they are not taking any further action against Mr. Cummings and that by locating himself at his father’s premises he did not breach the regulations. The prime minister has said he believes Mr. Cummings behaved reasonably and he considers the matter closed.”