Dominic Cummings is under huge pressure to explain TWO trips which defied lockdown rules HE helped draw up.
Boris Johnson’s top aide was spotted in Houghall Woods a fortnight after the first sighting.
He was first spotted in Durham on April 5 while self isolating with the coronavirus.
A return to London saw him back at work on April 14. But by April 19 he was back in Durham.
On the second visit, fellow walkers spotted Mr Cummings at the local beauty spot.
The adviser – tonight facing growing calls to quit – claimed Mr Cummings commented as he passed by: “Aren’t the bluebells lovely?”
The revelations came as:
- A YouGov poll showed 68 per cent of people think he broke the rules and 52 per cent think he should resign.
- Mr Johnson – under growing pressure to sack him – reiterated his support.
- A tetchy Mr Cummings clashed with press outside his home, insisting: “It’s a question of doing the right thing. It’s not about what you guys think.”
The Government was thrown into chaos yesterday after we reported that the PM’s chief-of-staff broke lockdown rules.
Downing Street said he had needed his relatives in the North East to help with childcare after he and his wife Mary Wakefield fell ill.
But the claims were mired in confusion after it emerged the couple continued to look after their four-year-old son themselves in Durham.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries cast further doubt when she told the No 10 daily briefing today that the only exception to the rules was if there was “an extreme risk to life”.
A joint investigation by the Sunday Mirror and Observer can reveal that Mr Cummings was spotted for a second time apparently breaching the rules – after he had recovered from Covid-19.
It comes as the number of Britons to die from the virus rose by 282 yesterday to 36,675.
A local couple, who did not want to be named, reported seeing Mr Cummings on Sunday April 19.
One told the Mirror: “We were shocked and surprised to see him because the last time we did was earlier in the week in Downing Street.
“We thought ‘He’s not supposed to be here during the lockdown’. We thought ‘What double standards, one rule for him as a senior adviser to the Prime Minister and another for the rest of us’.”
The witness said Mr Cummings, wearing his trademark beanie hat and outdoor clothes, was walking with a woman believed to be his wife Mary.
The locals stepped back a couple of metres, in line with social distancing.
Ministers insisted that Mr Cummings had “stayed put” at his family property in Durham during his 14-day self-isolation period.
But Robin Lees, 70, a retired chemistry teacher from Barnard Castle, claimed he saw Mr Cummings and his family walking by the River Tees in the town before getting into a car around lunch time on April 12.
Although he may have completed his period of self-isolation, strict lockdown rules were still in place and the family were 30 miles from his parents’ home.
Mr Lees said: “I was a bit gobsmacked to see him. They looked as if they’d been for a walk by the river. It didn’t seem right because I assumed he would be in London.
“Of course he should resign now. You don’t take the virus from one part of the country to another.
“It just beggars belief to think you could actually drive when the advice was stay home, save lives. It couldn’t have been clearer.”
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When asked if he was going to consider resigning following the allegations, Mr Cummings said: “Obviously not.”
The architect of the Vote Leave campaign added: “You guys are probably as right about that as you are about Brexit, remember how right you were?”
When challenged by a reporter who said his decision to self-isolate in Durham “didn’t look good”, he said: “Who cares about good looks? It’s a question of doing the right thing. It’s not about what you guys think.
A No 10 spokesman described the Mirror’s story on Mr Cummings travelling to self-isolate in Durham as “inaccurate” – despite confirming it earlier in the day.
They added: “Today they are writing more inaccurate stories including claims that Mr Cummings returned to Durham after returning to work in Downing Street on 14 April. We will not waste our time answering a stream of false allegations about Mr Cummings from campaigning newspapers.
Downing Street also denied Durham Police had spoken to Mr Cummings or his family, following their confirmation they had visited the property on March 31.
But the force has stood by their statement, and said “officers explained to the family the guidelines around self-isolation and reiterated the appropriate advice”.
Mr Cummings’ father, Robert, 73, has also tried to claim the scandal was a “pack of lies” when telephoned by the Sunday Mirror yesterday.
Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner has said officers acted appropriately in visiting the property.
A Durham Police spokesman said: “On Tuesday, March 31, our officers were made aware that Dominic Cummings had travelled from London to Durham and was present at an address in the city.
“At the request of Mr Cummings’ father, an officer made contact the following morning by telephone.
“During that conversation, Mr Cummings’ father confirmed that his son had travelled with his family from London to the North-East and was self-isolating in part of the property.
“Durham Constabulary deemed that no further action was required. However, the officer did provide advice in relation to security issues.”
And the PCC from neighbouring Northumbria has demanded the Prime Minister sack his chief adviser.
Kim McGuinness said: “The Prime Minister should stop delaying, do the right thing and sack him.”
Attorney General Suella Braverman breached all the usual conventions of senior Government law officers by defending Mr Cummings, suggesting he will escape prosecution.
On Twitter she said: “Protecting one’s family is what any good parent does.
“The @10DowningStreet statement clarifies the situation and it is wholly inappropriate to politicise it.
But opposition parties said Mr Cummings must go. SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford said there seemed to have been a “cover up” over his whereabouts.
Labour demanded that Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill hold an urgent inquiry into Mr Cummings’ actions.
Labour’s Rachel Reeves said: “The British people have made important and painful sacrifices to support the national effort, including being away from family in times of need.
“It is therefore vital that the Government can reassure the public that its most senior figures have been adhering to the same rules as everyone else.”
It criticised No 10’s explanations for Mr Cummings’s behaviour as having “raised more questions than they answer” including when the PM was made aware of his decision to travel to Durham during lockdown.
“The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for the Prime Minister’s most senior adviser.”
Amid a concerted Tory effort to shore up support for Mr Cummings, Cabinet minister Michael Gove – his former boss – tweeted: “Caring for your wife and child is not a crime.”