Professor Neil Ferguson’s married lover declared she was enjoying home-schooling her children and spending more time with her husband while secretly leaving their £1.9million home for liaisons with the eminent scientist, MailOnline can reveal today.
Antonia Staats, 38, also joked to neighbours in her affluent area of south-west London about her wealthy family’s ‘middle class problems’ like ‘sharing chores’ and losing their au pair and cleaner – but also admitted it had been ‘challenging’ and put a ‘strain’ on her marriage.
Only Antonia’s husband Chris and a few close friends appear to have known that while the academic known as ‘Professor Lockdown’ espoused the virtues of staying apart from family and loved ones to save lives and protect the NHS, he himself was flagrantly flouting the rules he had helped create by spending nights with her.
Such was the brazenness of their affair, Professor Ferguson, 51, even happily spoke to Radio 4 about the importance of adhering to the lockdown while he had his secret lover stashed in his flat for the first of their now public trysts.
And his German-born mother-of-two lover had also left her happy family – Arabic professor husband Chris Lucas and their two children – to spend time with the Government scientist because she enjoyed an ‘open marriage’.
Professor Ferguson, 51, who is estranged from his wife Kim, was said to have been matched a year ago with Antonia on the OkCupid app used by 3.5million around the world to find love. Ms Staats’ husband and his wife’s lookalike lover have even met, a friend claimed last night, and as well as sharing a passion for Antonia they also bonded over a love for data science.
The couple’s neighbours described them as a very happy family and a ‘lovely couple’ who have been enjoying the lockdown – but these friends had no idea about the affair that made headlines around the world and left Professor Ferguson’s reputation in tatters.
One friend of the couple told MailOnline: ‘I last spoke to Chris and Antonia about a week ago. They were going out for a walk with their kids, which is what they’ve been doing every day. We just chatted about life in lockdown and how we’re all coping. They’re home schooling their kids and Antonia was saying how weird it all is because they had never spent so much time together. But she did say they’ve got a nice house with lots of space and are luckier than many other people. She did say that the cleaner isn’t coming at the moment and that they’re dividing the household chores between them, which made me laugh because that’s a very middle class problem’.
Antonia Staats and her husband Chris Lucas have been described as a ‘lovely couple’ who have been enjoying the lockdown and jointly home schooling their two young children in the absence of their au pair
But today the world knows that she was having an affair with Professor Neil Ferguson, the man behind the lockdown, and they were enjoying illicit trysts
How architect of the lockdown lectured the country while flouting the rules
Professor Neil Ferguson, 51, pictured on March 25 before the Commons Science and Technology Committee – five days before allowed his married lover, Antonia Staats, to visit him at his home
MARCH 16: A week before the lockdown began Professor Neil Ferguson was arguing that a full lockdown was required to slow the number of deaths and said: ‘We are left with no option but to adopt this more draconian strategy’.
A report he authored for his employer Imperial College London warned that 500,000 people could die without mass self-isolation of households.
MARCH 17: He visited Downing Street to advise the Prime Minister on his findings including recommendations for a lockdown.
MARCH 18: Professor Ferguson tests positive for coronavirus
MARCH 23: Boris Johnson announces there will be a lockdown in a national TV address
MARCH 25: Prof Ferguson appears before the Commons Science and Technology Committee and warns that the NHS will be overwhelmed without a lockdown,
MARCH 30: His married lover Antonia Staats visited Prof Ferguson just after he had finished two weeks of self-isolation after testing positive for the virus. He also did a Radio 4 interview on the importance of the lockdown.
APRIL 4: Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today, he said: ‘We want to move to a situation where at least by the end of May we can substitute less intensive measures for the current lockdown we have now… I don’t think anyone wants to lift measures at the current time and risk the epidemic getting worse’
APRIL 8: Antonia made a second visit to Professor Ferguson 8 despite telling friends that her husband, an academic in his 30s, was showing symptoms of coronavirus.
APRIL 16: Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Professor Neil Ferguson had stressed the importance of keeping to social distancing guidelines. He said at the time: ‘If we want to reopen schools, let people get back to work, then we need to keep transmission down in another manner. It is not going to go back to normal, we will have to maintain some level of social distancing – significant levels of social distancing – probably indefinitely until we have a vaccine available.’
APRIL 25: The number of deaths from coronavirus could reach 100,000 in the UK by the end of this year if a gradual lockdown is implemented just to shield the elderly, Professor Neil Ferguson warned. He told UnHerd: ‘You would require a very high level of effective shielding for that to be a viable strategy. If you just achieve 80 per cent shielding – and 80 per cent reduction in infection risk in those groups – we still project that you would get more than 100,000 deaths this year from that kind of strategy. The most vulnerable people are also the people who most need care and most need interaction with the health system and are least able to be truly isolated.’
As Professor Ferguson’s affair with a married mother-of-two emerged, it was also revealed:
- The academic has resigned all his Government roles but his employer Imperial College is standing by him;
- Professor Neil Ferguson will not face further action by police after accepting he made an ‘error of judgment’ by breaching social distancing rules despite being a key figure in influencing the lockdown;
- The father of his lover’s husband is Jeremy Lucas, Vice Chairman of the London and Westminster Conservative Association;
- Boris Johnson today announced he is hoping to begin easing the UK’s coronavirus lockdown on Monday as Matt Hancock suggested cafes could reopen if they have outdoor drinking areas.
Antonia’s neighbours described Chris Lucas as a bright, articulate man who enjoys taking part in community activities. They said that both he and Antonia are popular residents of the affluent, middle class area where houses cost in excess of £1.5 million.
One said: ‘Chris is incredibly intelligent. He speaks about six or seven languages and is an academic at SOAS. Both he and Antonia are very popular around here and are a big part of our community. I always enjoy talking to them, especially Chris who is very knowledgeable about Middle Eastern affairs.
‘Whenever we have any kind of community celebration they always take part along with their kids. They are a great family.’
Another neighbour said: ‘I’ve known Chris and his family for five years they are really nice, helpful people. Chris is really intelligent and successful but he’s really down to earth, as is Antonia, who is also incredibly bright. She’s a lovely person, really kind hearted and cares about making the world a better place. They’re a wonderful family.’
But neighbours at Prof Ferguson’s former marital home in Oxford have been less charitable about his behaviour, in fact they said they were furious today.
He and his wife Kim have a child together and said to be estranged, but not divorced.
Their home, set on a private cul-de-sac next to a pond, was part of a luxury horseshoe-style development completed in 2001.
One elderly resident who did not want to be named said: ‘I feel incredibly sorry for his wife and child. They are totally blameless and humiliated I would think. I find it very sad that he has done this.’
Another resident sitting in the sunshine near to Professor Ferguson’s home, said: ‘My sympathies are with his wife. She has put a message on our lockdown Whatsapp group saying she does not want to talk about it’.
Another man, out for a stroll with his wife, said: ‘He’s not been around for weeks. I don’t think he actually lives here anymore. I think he should have taken a leaf out of his neighbours’ books. We have been observing the lockdown like everyone else. I just think he must have thought it was no risk because he’d already had it.’
The extraordinary affair became public knowledge last night after a whistleblower went to the press to reveal that the man nicknamed ‘Professor Lockdown’ for convincing Boris Johnson to bring in the ban on movement with warnings of 500,000 deaths was himself flouting it due to an affair.
Professor Ferguson has also been accused of rank hypocrisy because he used a Radio 4 interview on March 30 to lecture the country on the importance of staying at home to save lives – when Ms Staats had just stayed the night in his central London batchelor pad and was reportedly still with him.
Such was their desperation to see eachother during the lockdown Professor Ferguson had invited her over just hours after his two-week quarantine ended after testing positive for coronavirus.
And on the second known night together, on April 8, Ms Staat left the £1.9million south-west London home she shared with her husband and two children having admitted that her Arabic lecturer husband was showing symptoms of coronavirus and believed he ‘had it’.
Antonia and her husband Chris, the son of Jeremy Lucas, Vice Chairman of the London and Westminster Conservative Association, met while studying at SOAS between 2003 and 2005. Ms Staats grew up in Isny, south Germany, went to university in Berlin and came to London 17 years ago, earning a masters in Asian Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, where her husband works.
Neighbours of Antonia and Chris, who live in this £1.9million South London home, said the couple have been enjoying the lockdown together and home-schooling the children
Neighbours who live in the street where Professor Ferguson lived with his estranged wife Kim and their child until recently
She has worked for Avaaz, a US-based online network which promotes global activism on issues such as climate change.In 2017, Ms Staats was pictured protesting outside Parliament next to puppets of Theresa May and Rupert Murdoch while holding a banner that read: ‘Stop Murdoch pulling the strings.’
She admitted on a podcast recorded with a journalist friend days earlier that the lockdown had placed a ‘strain’ on her relationship with her husband Chris, who is yet to comment on his wife’s affair or their alleged open marriage.
Ms Staats has reportedly insisted her actions to visit the scientist are not hypocritical, as she considers the households to be one because she is understood to be in an ‘open relationship’.
Antonia Staats has refused to comment on the affair – but in the gap between her two nights with her lover she recorded a podcast describing her life in lockdown, and the impact it was having on her, her husband and their children.
Neil Ferguson joins long list of famous names who flouted the lockdown
Professor Neil Ferguson, the scientist whose research helped usher in the lockdown, has resigned from his role as a key Government adviser after admitting that he had undermined social distancing rules by meeting his lover at his home.
But Prof Ferguson is not the first prominent figure to be caught breaching social-distancing restrictions amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
– Dr Catherine Calderwood
Scotland’s chief medical officer resigned in April after twice breaking lockdown restrictions in order to visit her second home, which was located more than an hour away from her main residence in Edinburgh.
Despite Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon backing Dr Calderwood to remain in her position, she ultimately decided to relinquish her role so as not to be a ‘distraction’ from the Government’s social-distancing message.
– Robert Jenrick
The housing, communities and local government secretary was forced to explain himself after travelling more than an hour to visit his parents despite warning people to remain at home.
Mr Jenrick was also criticised for travelling 150 miles from his London property to his Herefordshire home from where he travelled to his parents in Shropshire.
However, he defended his actions, saying he went to deliver food and medicine to his isolating parents.
– Stephen Kinnock
The MP for Aberavon in South Wales was publicly shamed by police after travelling to London to celebrate his father’s birthday.
After Mr Kinnock posted a photo on Twitter of himself practicing social distancing with his parents outside their home, South Wales Police replied: ‘We know celebrating your Dad’s birthday is a lovely thing to do, however this is not essential travel. We all have our part to play in this, we urge you to comply with (lockdown) restrictions, they are in place to keep us all safe. Thank you.’
Antonia Staats also spoke out in support of Ferguson who had told the Government to impose restrictions on the public to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Friend and former journalist Jeremy Wagstaff interviewed Staats at her home to discuss how she was coping with losing her au pair caring for her two young children, the shortage of toilet paper and surviving the lockdown.
Staats, who is said to be in an open relationship with her husband Chris and aware of her relationship with Ferguson was asked how she was coping being stuck at home with her family – and admitted it presented an ‘interesting relationship challenge’
‘You mentioned how it impacts us all personally. I think it’s also a strain on, maybe strained sounds too negative, but its an interesting relationship challenge.’ she said.
‘Chris and my relationship, but also for the relationship with the children.’
She added: ‘We spend a lot more time and quite different time with each other all of a sudden.’
Staats also confessed that a week into the lockdown time was dragging and being at home for weeks would be a ‘serious challenge.’
‘There are small advantages of the situation, but it does feel long, basically, she said, adding: ‘This is only week two of school being closed. And I think our first week we had some really good days, some days where everyone was shouting at each other and the prospect of doing this for several months, it doesn’t seem awful but it seems quite a serious challenge.’
The revealing comments came after she had travelled across London from her £1.9m home to visit Ferguson who had recently come out of self-isolation after contracting the virus.
The leading scientist has been called a ‘hyprocite’ for lecturing the public on the importance of staying at home while flouting the lockdown advice and allowing his lover to visit his home.
Married, but separated from his wife, Ferguson is director of the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College, London, and authored the report containing the apocalyptic prediction that coronavirus could kill 500,000 Britons.
It was this number of predicted deaths that convinced the Prime Minister he had to lockdown the country from March 23.
Staats, who is from Isny, Germany, makes reference in the podcast about her fears that her husband, an academic, might have already been infected.
In 2017, Ms Staats was pictured protesting outside Parliament next to puppets of Theresa May and Rupert Murdoch while holding a banner that read: ‘Stop Murdoch pulling the strings.’
She said: Chris has been not feeling great and thinks he got it. But we can’t know for sure. So what now? Do we assume he’s had it?’
Staats, makes no direct mention of her lover, but does give a nod to Ferguson’s advice on slowing the spread of the virus.
‘I’m not a scientist, so I feel reluctant to be like, ‘I think in three weeks we will be through the worst of it’,’ she said.
‘I feel inclined to believe the science and I certainly think its not like ‘oh Easter we’ll go back normal and after the Easter holidays the schools are going to open again.’
Staats said she had been determined to make the best of her permitted one outing a day.
‘Part of me even thinks about little things like needing to be making the best of your one outing a day and getting exercise’, she revealed.
The podcast was recorded by former technology journalist Jeremy Wagstaff for his Singapore based company. He conducted a series of interviews with people around on how they are coping with the crisis. The interview with Staats has since been removed from his company’s website.
Staats described the panic buying that saw toilet rolls stripped from supermarket shelves as ‘weird’.
‘Like the loo paper thing, I really did not understand. Really? If the apocalypse comes, what you’re going to wipe your bum with is your first concern, really? I mean, there’s other options. The food, I understand. But this paper stockpiling, I really find my mystifying. ‘
Staats said she is able to work from home and is being paid her usual salary working for the US based activist group Avaaz.
She told the interviewer she was fortunate and considered herself in a ‘very privileged and comfortable position. I’m not someone in an abusive relationship who is now trapped in a flat with an abuser,’ she said.