A man who was called a “thug” by Boris Johnson after being filmed accosting Prof Chris Whitty has apologised for “any upset I caused”.
Lewis Hughes, 24, said if he made England’s chief medical officer feel “uncomfortable”, then “I am sorry to him for that”. He said he had lost his job as a result of the video.
The prime minister said he was “shocked at seeing the despicable harassment” after a video posted online appeared to show Whitty being manhandled in a central Londres park, while he struggled to get away.
“I condemn the behaviour of these thugs," Johnson said on Twitter. “Our hard-working public servants should not have to face this kind of intimidation on our streets and we will not tolerate it.”
El video, which lasts about 20 seconds and was filmed in St James’s Park, Westminster, shows two men filming in selfie mode as the scientific adviser ducks his head under an arm of one of the men holding on to him and tries to get away.
The men, asking for a selfie, then pulled him back towards them, putting their arms around him as he again attempted to get away, while a voice is heard saying “leave the gentleman alone” before the clip ends.
Hughes, from Romford in Essex, said he had lost his job as an estate agent after the incident, telling the Sun: “I absolutely apologise for any upset I caused.
“If I made him feel uncomfortable, which it does look like I did, then I am sorry to him for that.
“He is quite a timid, shy person and I think that is why he didn’t say, ‘Get off me’. If he had said that and I had realised how he felt, I wouldn’t have put my arm round him.”
He said he had been hoping to get a selfie with the chief medical officer to show to his mother, agregando: “There was no malicious intent, I didn’t want to upset him.”
His friend Jonathan Chew, 24, told the newspaper: “We didn’t cause any harm to him. We just wanted a selfie.”
Whitty has not commented publicly and is understood to have dismissed the park incident as “schoolboy behaviour” and said he would not have told anyone if the footage had not already spread online.
los Metropolitan police confirmed that officers spoke to Whitty after the park incident and checked on his welfare, but that he did not want to make any allegations and went on his way.
A spokesperson said officers had been in the vicinity of the incident policing a nearby demonstration and had intervened when they saw what was happening.
The statement continued: “Police remain in contact with the alleged victim. The incident has been recorded as a common assault and continues to be investigated by the Met’s public order crime team.”