DOMINIC Cummings finally apologised yesterday for his lockdown-breaking Barnard Castle trip as he spun a new line on the scandal that rocked his reputation.
The rogue former aide, who previously fudged his explanation for heading to Durham, told MPs he had gone north following death threats to his family.
The Svengali also admitted his actions, at a time when Britain was effectively under house arrest, had shattered “public confidence” in the rules and harmed the war on Covid.
He told the parliamentary select committee: “I wish I’d never heard of Barnard Castle.”
Mr Cummings, formerly PM Boris Johnson’s top aide, made the 260-mile trip from London last March with his wife Mary Wakefield and their son, three, to stay at a family cottage.
They were there for a fortnight before returning, Mr Cummings feeling he was too crucial to the Covid fight to stay away.
He drove to the historic town of Barnard Castle to “test his eyes” before heading back.
'I WISH I'D NEVER HEARD OF BARNARD CASTLE'
His rule-breaking was exposed in May, sparking national fury.
In astonishing scenes, Mr Cummings called a cosy press conference in No 10’s rose garden to defend his actions.
He refused to apologise and said he had acted “reasonably and legally”.
He said that his trip followed a “complicated and tricky situation” affecting his family, but nothing more.
Almost exactly a year on, in front of the MPs, Mr Cummings came clean, admitted he was in the wrong and had tarnished the battle against the pandemic.
He said he made a “terrible, terrible mistake” in not telling the truth.
He said: “I am extremely sorry . . . that whole episode was a major disaster for the government and Covid policy.”
He admitted that his brazen actions, when Brits were missing funerals and spending months not seeing friends and family, had weakened the UK’s resolve to stick with the lockdown.
He said: “I wish I’d never heard of Barnard Castle.
“I wish I’d never gone. I wish the whole nightmare had never happened.”
Mr Cummings said he quit London after death threats to his family.
He said his wife had called from home one day to say a gang was outside “saying they’re going to break into the house and kill everybody inside”.
He said he hatched a plan with Mr Johnson to get away but decided not to tell the public because he feared a mob could hunt him and his family down in Durham.
DEATH THREATS TO FAMILY
He added: “The Prime Minister and I agreed that because of the security things, we’d basically just stonewall the story.
“I’d already put my wife and child in the firing line . . . . so I said, ‘I’m not talking about this’.”
He said: “I ended up giving the whole rose garden thing where what I said was true, but we left out a kind of crucial part of it all.
“The whole thing was a complete disaster, and then it undermined public confidence. I got that wrong.”
Trying to salvage his reputation during the seven-hour grilling, he denied lying when he said the 30-mile drive to Barnard Castle from the cottage was to “test his eyesight”.
The visit was said to coincide with his wife’s birthday.
He said: “If I was going to make up a story I’d have come up with a hell of a lot better one than that one, right? It’s such a weird story.”
A poll of 2,000 Brits revealed that just five per cent believed Mr Cummings’ Barnard Castle account.
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