The retired chemistry teacher who first revealed that Dominic Cummings drove to Barnard Castle during lockdown has said Cummings should resign, after hearing the prime minister’s chief adviser’s defence of the journey.
Robin Lees said he felt vindicated in giving an account to the Guardian and the Mirror about seeing Cummings and recording his number plate at the river Tees beauty spot.
On Monday Cummings admitted he had been to Barnard Castle that day, saying he stayed only a short while. He said he was on a test drive to see if his eyesight was robust enough to make the longer journey back to London.
But Lees said: “I don’t think that was in the rules.”
Asked if he thought Cummings should remain in post, he said: “Personally, no.” But he added: “I don’t think my opinion matters, that’s up to him. A number of Tory MPs say he should.”
Asked if he thought Cummings could have endangered lives by driving with potentially defective vision, Lees said: “I would imagine so.”
Lees spoke after a second witness revealed she had called for the police to investigate Cummings over claims he had breached self-isolation rules by driving from Durham to Barnard Castle.
Rosalind Evans, a retired council worker, has complained to Durham police after reporting that she saw Cummings on 12 April with a group of people walking in the town of Barnard Castle, allegedly breaking lockdown rules.
Evans is the second person to come forward to say they saw Cummings in the town, which is 30 miles from Durham, where Cummings has claimed he was self-isolating after developing coronavirus symptoms.
On Sunday Lees made a similar complaint to the police after saying he saw Cummings and his family on the same day walking in Barnard Castle and getting into a car. The revelations came as part of a joint investigation by the Guardian and the Mirror.
Evans called for an investigation in an email sent to Durham police on Monday. She reported the sighting and asked detectives to look into whether Cummings had breached health protection regulations.
“Me and my partner Pete were out for our daily exercise and we were walking up from the river back towards our house through the marketplace when I saw a figure on the opposite side of the road with a group of people. I immediately said it was Dominic Cummings,” said Evans, 60.
She added: “But at the time we doubted ourselves and couldn’t get a closer look because we were programmed not to go near anyone else, to be protective, and maintain our distance. So I put it out of my mind because there were other more important things going on.”
However, since then Evans said she had been unable to shake a “nagging” feeling about the lunchtime sighting.
“When I saw the papers at the weekend I knew then it must have been him. It couldn’t have been anyone else. So this morning I felt it was the right thing to do to report it to the police. I am outraged and devastated at the same time. People have the right to know the truth,” she said.
As well as the two complaints, a local councillor, Amanda Hopgood, has written to the Durham chief constable, Jo Farrell, asking for an independent inquiry into whether lockdown regulations were breached, possibly on multiple occasions.
“I don’t want this to be politicised. My concern is for the health and wellbeing of those who live in Barnard Castle. Everybody has sacrificed so much during this pandemic and it is only right that we know the truth,” she said.
On bank holiday Monday, many in Barnard Castle described Cummings’s actions as making a mockery of the pandemic and the sacrifices they had had to make during the lockdown.
Klara Halpin, 29, said locals had been “outraged and disappointed” by Cummings’s actions. The community support worker said her family were not able to attend her grandfather’s funeral when he died during the crisis.
She said: “I have not even been able to comfort my mother through the death of her father as we live in different households. How is Cummings therefore allowed to travel 250 miles with symptoms to Durham. Then a further 30 miles to Barnard Castle … just for a stroll, against guidance.
“The town has such a community spirit and the people have gone above and beyond to follow guidance and support one another. Yet we get tarnished by Cummings who risked spreading the virus through our town, which has a lot of vulnerable residents. This town deserves so much better.”