An official investigation is underway into how footage of Matt Hancock locked in an embrace with a top aide was leaked to his lockdown-sceptic opponents, a minister confirmed today.
Brandon Lewis confirmed that the Department of Health was looking into how the images from inside Mr Hancock’s private office ended up splashed across the front of the Sun newspaper.
The Mail on Sunday today revealed that the sting was executed by a whistleblower in his department who contacted opponents of the Health Secretary’s stance on lockdown to help expose his affair.
The footage of Mr Hancock kissing Gina Coladangelo was caught on a CCTV camera in his office on May 6, and secretly recorded by a member of his department’s staff.
After allowing a month to elapse, the whistleblower approached lockdown sceptics and asked them to help sell the incendiary footage to the media.
Northern Ireland Secretary Mr Lewis today told Sky News: ‘It’s something we need to get to the bottom of.
‘Quite rightly what happens in Government departments can be sensitive and important.
‘So yes, I do know that is something the Department of Health will be taking forward as an internal investigation.’
Throughout the pandemic, Mr Hancock has been a leading lockdown ‘dove’, arguing that the ultimate priority of government policy should be protecting the NHS against being overwhelmed. His critics have argued that the cost of the measures has been too high.
When the images detonated on The Sun’s front page on Friday, Mr Hancock’s allies speculated that he had been the victim of a ‘hit’ by No 10, or even a foreign power such as China.
The sting that brought down Matt Hancock was executed by a whistleblower in his department who contacted opponents of the Health Secretary’s stance on lockdown to help expose his affair, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. The clinch took place around this corner (bottom right part of image). The camera in question can be seen on the ceiling (top right-hand corner)
After allowing a month to elapse, the whistleblower approached lockdown sceptics and asked them to help sell the incendiary footage to the media
Northern Ireland Secretary Mr Lewis today told Sky News: ‘It’s something we need to get to the bottom of’
The footage of Mr Hancock kissing Gina Coladangelo was caught on a CCTV camera in his office on May 6, and secretly recorded by a member of his department’s staff. Above, the pair’s kiss is in clear view of the camera in the ceiling
The door (to the left) is the same one as seen in the footage of Matt Hancock’s clinch
They said they had no idea the camera existed, that it was ‘unheard of’ for cameras to be installed in Ministers’ offices, and wanted to know why it had been put there without Mr Hancock’s permission – and with what motivation. It was speculated that the images had been caught by ‘a small covert camera that had been placed in a light fixture’.
In fact, pictures taken in September 2017, just before Mr Hancock moved in, show that the camera which caught the clinch is clearly visible on the ceiling of his office.
It is trained on the area by the doorway where the couple embraced.
Six weeks after the fateful images were captured – and a fortnight after they had been wiped from the department’s CCTV system – the worker who had secured the footage contacted an anti-lockdown campaigner, who promised to try to place them in the media.
The Mail on Sunday was not one of the outlets approached. It is not known if The Sun obtained the video from the whistleblower or from another source entirely.
In a series of Instagram messages seen by this newspaper, the whistleblower says they need ‘to be very careful with the information I am about to share’.
They add: ‘I have some very damning CCTV footage of someone that has been recently classed as completely f*****g hopeless.’
The first message was sent on June 17, the day after former No 10 aide Dominic Cummings released a text exchange between him and the Prime Minister in which Boris Johnson expressed his frustration with Mr Hancock.
Messages from an anonymous Instagram account. The Mail on Sunday was not one of the outlets approached. It is not known if The Sun obtained the video from the whistleblower or from another source entirely
Mr Cummings had highlighted the Health Secretary’s scepticism about the UK being able to match the US’s ambitious testing programme, to which Mr Johnson replied: ‘Totally f*****g hopeless’.
On June 19, the whistleblower explains more about the footage, writing: ‘I really need to be careful with this but it involves him in a very compromising position with some [sic] who isn’t his wife last month.’ Later they reveal: ‘I have the full video… it’s now been deleted off the system as it’s over 30 days.’
In a separate message, the whistleblower admits working for the Department of Health.
The video shows Mr Hancock, just after 3pm, checking the corridor outside his ninth-floor office before closing the door, leaning against it to make sure it cannot be opened, then embracing his lover.
At the time, under Mr Hancock’s own rules, hugging anyone from outside your household was banned.
Having sent a ‘grab’ image from the video to the anti-lockdown figure, the whistleblower discussed a potential payment, but said they were not looking for a large amount.
Asked for further material, they conclude: ‘I really don’t feel comfortable sending any more than I already have at the moment.’
The whistleblower said they could be contacted on an encrypted Protonmail email account. It is also understood that the Instagram account on which the original messages were posted has since been deleted.
It is not clear whether the footage was copied directly from the system or filmed on a mobile phone trained on a monitor. The security for government buildings is usually contracted out to private firms.
As Mr Hancock’s allies thrashed around in panic in the aftermath of the story breaking, they saw, in the words of one source, ‘demons everywhere’: was it a plot by No 10, or Mr Cummings himself?
Could it even be part of an elaborate operation by a hostile foreign power: officials latched on to the fact that the CCTV cameras in the office were made by Hikvision, a Chinese firm banned in the US over concerns that it could be used by Beijing as a spying tool. The company denies the claim, saying there is no evidence that its data is relayed to China.
Hikvision has also been accused of aiding the Chinese government’s campaign against the Uighur minority by monitoring the detention camps in which they are held in the Xinjiang region.
The Department of Health building is owned by a Singapore-based property firm.
The police have not been called in. Last night, a Scotland Yard spokesman said: ‘The Met is aware of the distribution of images alleged to have been obtained from within an official government premises. No criminal investigation has been launched. It remains a matter for the relevant department.’
MI5 said that it would become involved only if there was a ‘national security angle’.