A couple who allege Dominic Cummings made a second lockdown trip to north-east England have accused Durham police of trying to help the government deny the claim in an internal review of the investigation.
The two-and-a-half page review insisted the force did take seriously an alleged sighting of Boris Johnson’s chief adviser in woods on the southern outskirts of the city on 19 April by Dave and Clare Edwards. But it is standing by its investigation in May, which found there was “insufficient evidence” for the claim.
Now the Edwardses, both 59, have accused the force of siding with Downing Street because they say the review cherrypicked press reports that only tallied with Cummings’ version of events, while ignoring their accounts, and those of two others, who all claim they saw Cummings that morning. They also point out the press stories cited in the review all came after the conclusion of Durham police’s initial investigation.
Speaking to the Guardian and the Daily Mirror, Dave Edwards, who works for a company that supplied some of the Nightingale hospitals, said: “How one-sided can you write a report to be? I’m just gobsmacked that anyone in Durham police thought that was adequate. To me it is evidence that the police haven’t done their job.”
He added: “If there was ‘insufficient evidence’, is it because the police weren’t actually looking for it? The report doesn’t answer that, it just selectively quotes the media to suit [the government’s] case.”
He also questioned why the attorney general, Suella Braverman, had tweeted support for Cummings before the police investigation began.
Clare Edwards, a nurse practitioner, said: “This looks like complicity of the police with the government.”
In his rose garden statement in Downing Street, Cummings denied making a second trip to Durham on the weekend of 18-19 April and claimed he had evidence to prove it. But he has refused repeated requests to release the evidence.
In August, the Guardian and the Mirror revealed that the Edwardses – two of four people who claim to have seen Cummings in Houghall Woods on the morning of the 19 April – had complained to the police watchdog that their testimony had not been properly investigated.
The independent office for police conduct referred the complaint back to Durham to review.
The review said there was no evidence from automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras that Cummings was “in the Durham area on 19 April”. But it made no mention of whether officers checked the national ANPR database to verify if Cummings’ vehicles had made the journey from Durham to London that day.
Dave Edwards, a Conservative voter, said: “We are aware of how difficult it is for the police at the moment. But I believe this to be a failure of the senior leadership team at Durham police in dealing with this matter. It needs to be pushed and further investigation is required. It doesn’t say they have checked ANPR regarding 19 April. I’m questioning why.”
The review also noted a Guardian report on 7 August that cited a witness who claimed to have seen Cummings at 3.31pm on Hampstead Heath in north London. The Durham police review said: “This supports the account provided by Mr Cummings.” But it ignored that the Guardian report also noted it was possible to drive between London and Durham in well under four hours in lockdown conditions. Such a journey time would have made it possible for someone to be seen in Durham as late as 11.15-11.30am, the latest time one of four witnesses claimed to have seen Cummings in Durham, and to be seen in London at 3.31pm.
Dave Edwards said: “They have selectively taken media reports that suit their version, and not included a balanced media report to say there were other people on the day who also said Mr Cummings was in the woods. The Guardian’s report actually said you can do the journey in a 17-year-old Honda in under four hours.”
He added: “This has massively eroded public trust in the police.”
Johnson told the liaison committee in May that he had seen the evidence that Cummings claims he had that proved he was not in Durham on 19 April. But the prime minister refused to release it to the cabinet secretary to verify.
A No 10 spokesman said: “The prime minister has said he believes Mr Cummings behaved reasonably and he considers the matter closed. 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.”
A spokesman for Durham constabulary said: “We received a complaint which has been dealt with under appropriate procedures and the investigation is now closed.”