Families slam Downing Street over drinks party on day of Suffolk man’s funeral

Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street, London, to attend Prime Minister's Questions

Witnesses have alleged that Boris Johnson was at the Downing Street drinks party - Credit: PA

Families who have lost loved ones to Covid-19 have slammed the ‘disgraceful’ decision to hold a ‘bring your own booze’ party at 10 Downing Street - on the day of a Suffolk carer's funeral.

Restrictions in May 2020 introduced to deal with the Covid pandemic meant funeral numbers had to be kept ‘as low as possible’ with only the deceased’s household and close family able to attend.

Up to 100 government staff were alleged to have been invited to a drinks party at Downing Street on May 20, which contravened lockdown regulations. Witnesses have reportedly said Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie were among 30 attendees at the bash.

John Chapman worked as a carer in Felixstowe for over a decade and dedicated many years of his life

John Chapman, from Felixstowe, whose funeral was held on May 20, 2020 - the same day as the Downing Street drinks party. Only 12 people were able to attend the service - Credit: Archant

The funeral of Felixstowe carer John Chapman, 43, was held at Seven Hills Crematorium near Ipswich on the day of the party.

However, only 12 people were able to attend the service itself, including his wife Claire, her two daughters, his eldest son and a number of friends.

His parents Susan, 68 and Mark, 69, of Rosemary Avenue, Felixstowe, were forced to watch video footage of the service in the car park because they were concerned about going inside due to the threat from the virus.

Mrs Chapman said she was ‘disappointed to put it diplomatically’ at news of the drinks party, adding that more people would have attended the funeral if restrictions were not in place.

She added: “There would have been a lot of people there to say goodbye and it is unfair on that level that they were out in the garden partying. It is more than disappointing, to put it diplomatically.”

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For more than a decade, Mr Chapman worked as a carer in Felixstowe and became well known as a dementia and Parkinson’s champion.

He worked at Brierfield care home in Trimley St Mary before becoming a manager at Bluebird care in Felixstowe.

He died from what turned out to be coronavirus in April 2020 following three weeks in hospital.

"I don’t have a very high opinion of the government full stop. I don’t think the way they have handled things is particularly professional right from the beginning and it is just becoming a farce really. The whole way they decided they knew differently to us. Their rules for them,” Mrs Chapman added.

Elysia DePledge, 50, from Hulver, near Beccles, lost her mother Jenny Bone to COVID-19 in April 2020.

The funeral of the 72-year-old, of Rectory Road, Dickleburgh, was held at West Suffolk Crematorium at Bury St Edmunds, but numbers were limited to her close family and three people watching online.

Mrs DePledge, who is involved with COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said: “The fact that this party was held in May, three weeks after I attended my mother’s funeral is shocking and it is disgraceful and it is a complete disregard for those who had lost loved ones at the time.

“They were partying and doing things that we could not do at the time.”

Her mother was a director at the London School of Economics and a trustee at the charity Feline care, while she also sat on exclusion appeal panels for schoolchildren in Norfolk.

“The other thing that was affected by the rules was that we were not able to see her in hospital. I know there are hundreds of people every day who lose people without seeing them.

“It was a decision made by people who were partying that I could not be with my mother when she died. The world is a very small place without my mum. She was a very popular and loved person throughout her life,” Mrs DePledge added.

She paid tribute to her mother as a ‘lovely and bright person who had so much left to do.’

“It just beggars belief really,” she said.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman has said the Downing Street garden was "used fairly regularly, particularly in the summer months, by No 10 Downing Street staff".

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