Covid-19 inquiry: Boris Johnson "may have deleted" WhatsApp messages from start of pandemic, inquiry hears
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WhatsApp messages sent by and to former prime minister Boris Johnson at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic may have been deleted from his phone, a lawyer has speculated.
The second phase of the UK's Covid-19 inquiry is underway, with the goal of establishing how effective the UK government's leadership and decision making was in controlling and restricting the virus.
It was thought that evidence from then-prime minister Boris Johnson's phone, including WhatsApp chats between him and other top politicians and advisors, could be a "key" part of the inquiry. But today, the inquiry heard that despite Johnson downloading the phone, messages from January to June 2020 are unaccounted for.
Representing Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, Pete Weatherby KC suggested that these messages may have been deleted.
"Mr Johnson claims that although he has downloaded the phone, the WhatsApp messages from the cruical period of 31 January to 7 June 2020 are unrecoverable," he said.
"A remarkable and unfortunate coincidence, we would say.
"We would urge the inquiry to commission experts to see why these messages cannot be retrived, and whether they may have been deleted."
The former prime minister has previously suggested that he had forgotten the passcode to access his WhatsApp messages.
Referring to comments made by Lord James Bethell, Mr Weatherby added that the UK was unprepared for the Covid-19 pandemic, despite the likes of Professor Chris Whitty pushing for it to be taken seriously as early as January 2020, when the virus was still contained in China.
He said: "What was needed was a dynamic and proactive government response - there was a fixation on Brexit to the exclusion of anything else and erratic, ill-informed interference from Number 10. Those are his [Lord Bethell's] words, not mine.
"It amounts to dither, delay, indecision, denial, bluster and above all, a lack of leadership."
Later in the week, the inquiry is expected to hear from the likes of Professor Philip Banfield from the British Medical Association, former children's commissioner Anne Longfield DBE and a host of campaigners and experts.
Meta, which powers WhatsApp, has been approached by National World for comment.