Fury of children who lost a parent to Covid as the government ‘held Christmas party’

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Daisy Harris, 19, and Rob Kelleher, 65, have spoken of their fury and heartbreak over losing their parents while Downing Street staff enjoyed cheese and wine Christmas party

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Boris Johnson apologies for Downing Street party video

People united in Covid grief have spoken of their fury after their parents died alone due to coronavirus restrictions while staff at Downing Street held a much-criticised Christmas party.

Daisy Harris, 19, last spoke to her terminally ill mum, Helen Harris, on FaceTime from her hospice bed on December 18 last year – the same night as the alleged party.

Tragically Helen, 47, died two days later after contracting coronavirus. Daisy, a student at the University of Manchester, didn’t know at the time that the FaceTime call would be her last interaction with her mother.

She wasn’t allowed to visit in person as the hospice was in lockdown – a move neither Daisy or her family blame staff for.

And whilst Daisy and her family were grieving, Downing Street staff were filmed joking about the alleged bash.

A video leaked to ITV News, recorded on December 22 last year, shows staff laughing and making references to ‘cheese and wine’ at the ‘business meeting.’

Daisy (left) with her mum Helen in 2018
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Daisy Harris)

As the first anniversary of her mum’s death approaches, Daisy said watching the video had caused her much distress at a time when she was already feeling fragile.

Daisy said: “I don’t really have words for it. Just absolute fury. Our family and so many other families were suffering.”

Helen was diagnosed with a grade four terminal brain tumour in 2016, and had defied doctors who gave her an 18-month life expectancy. By December 2020, she had been moved to a hospice in Glasgow, where Daisy’s family live.

Daisy said: “I arrived home from university in Manchester to Scotland on December 18.

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“It was too late to see my mum so my dad put me on FaceTime which was the last time I ever spoke to her.

“The next day she was diagnosed with Covid. We could have come to see her and stood outside her window but we didn’t want to put extra pressure on the hospice.”

On December 20, Daisy’s dad was woken up in the early hours by the hospice, who informed the family that Helen wasn’t going to make it.

Her dad could have visited the hospice, but would have had to stand outside and say goodbye through the window.

Bob Kelleher died alone in hospital
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PA)

The drive was also around 40 minutes away from the family home and they feared they wouldn’t make it in time.

Instead they decided to go over to Daisy’s grandmother’s house where, just 30 minutes later, they received a call with the news that Helen had sadly passed away.

Daisy said: “The government’s failure to lockdown early enough and the reopening in the summer before failing to lockdown early enough again was just shocking.

“Now finding out that they were breaking the rules themselves is heartbreaking. Seeing that video last night made me really upset.

“The staff at the hospice were so visibly moved by my mum when those in power were just joking around like it didn’t mean anything to them.”

Meanwhile, a man whose father died alone in hospital after being admitted on the day of the alleged Christmas party at Downing Street has said the week’s revelations have left him “crushed”.

Bob with wife Maureen and son Bob
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Rob Kelleher said his father Bob, 88, was admitted to hospital on December 18 last year and subsequently died on January 10, without seeing a member of his family in person again.

Mr Kelleher said his 85-year-old mother Maureen and the rest of his family are reliving it all over again because of the news about activities in 10 Downing Street on the day his father was admitted.

The 65-year-old told the PA news agency: “It was the date that triggered all of this because in our mind that is the very last day anybody’s seen my dad.

“My mam is sitting at home not watching the telly or even having the radio on because she just can’t deal with this.”

After going into hospital, Bob Kelleher, from South Shields, was only able to communicate with family by phone or on Zoom.

Mr Kelleher, who lives in Barroway Drove in Norfolk, said it was a “worrying” time and he was particularly “upset” about not being able to see his mother or get together with family to talk about the situation.

Bob with wife Maureen
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PA)

In January, Bob Kelleher’s health deteriorated as Covid started to affect him more severely.

“We weren’t allowed to go to the hospital but in these talks you could hear him sort of fading away, really, and it was so upsetting,” his son said.

“I was stuck down here with my wife and we so wanted to just jump in the car, and then we thought ‘well, will the police stop us? What will happen when we get to my mam’s?’

“But we stuck by the rules and it was so hard.”

He said the stories emerging this week of a Christmas party at Downing Street had left him “crushed”, adding: “I just feel so lost and angry.

“All through last Christmas and going through the lockdown there were stories of parties – not 10 Downing Street parties, but students having parties and getting fined £10,000 and neighbours phoning the police on neighbours.

“As we were grieving it was making us angry that people were being so stupid – and then we find out now that the Government was complicit in all this and they were having their little parties.”

He called on Boris Johnson to resign, saying: “I would just tell him to go.”

But Boris Johnson has said that ‘rules were followed’ at all times.

In response to ITV’s report, a Downing Street spokesman said: “There was no Christmas party. Covid rules have been followed at all times.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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