Journalist claims Matt Hancock sent her ‘menacing’ messages over WhatsApp leak

‘I think you can easily surmise whether Matt Hancock is my friend at this point,’ says Isabel Oakeshott

Jane Dalton
Wednesday 01 March 2023 22:09 GMT
All the times Matt Hancock defended his Covid care home strategy

The journalist behind the leak of tens of thousands messages that Matt Hancock sent during the pandemic has claimed the former health secretary sent her a “menacing message” after their publication.

Isabel Oakeshott, who was given the WhatsApp exchanges by Mr Hancock while they were collaborating on a book about the pandemic, said it was clear he was not happy after she gave him no warning she was giving them to The Daily Telegraph.

The WhatsApp messages that the paper published appear to show he rejected advice while he was health secretary to give Covid tests to all residents going into English care homes.

A war of words erupted after their publication, as the former minister denied rejecting the advice and in doing so leaving vulnerable residents at risk of catching the virus.

A spokesperson for the former minister insisted the messages had been “doctored” and “spun to fit an anti-lockdown agenda”, and said it was “flat wrong” to say Mr Hancock had rejected such advice.

But The Telegraph stands by the accuracy of its story.

Ms Oakeshott said on Wednesday night: “I received a somewhat menacing message at 1.20 in the morning.

“I am not going to repeat what was in the message. I think you can easily surmise whether Matt Hancock is my friend at this point.”

A source close to the former health secretary said it was outrageous that she had broken a non-disclosure agreement to pass on the messages.

But, as she confirmed that she had broken it, she said she was acting in the public interest because it could be years before the official inquiry into the pandemic concludes.

“The reality is that this inquiry, which I think is absolutely critical, will likely not come up with any conclusions, left to the government’s own devices, perhaps for at least a decade or more,” she told TalkTV’s Piers Morgan Uncensored.

“This resource that I had is an extraordinary way to quickly get to the truth of what happened. I think the public interest is overwhelming.”

The Independent has asked Mr Hancock’s spokesperson to respond to the new claim.

Rishi Sunak insisted the official inquiry was the right way to investigate the government’s handling of the pandemic rather than “piecemeal bits of information”.

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