Covid-denying conspiracy theorist, 46, dies with coronavirus after refusing to wear a mask or follow social distancing rules – as his heartbroken family pay tribute to ‘brilliant artist’
- Gary Matthews, 46, had been ill for around a week before getting positive test
- Shropshire artist, who was a ‘Covid denier’, died alone in his flat the next day
- Matthews ‘suffered from asthma’ and refused to adhere to pandemic measures
A Covid-denying conspiracy theorist who refused to wear a face mask died a day after testing positive for the virus.
Gary Matthews, 46, had been ill for around a week before testing positive for coronavirus on January 12. He died alone in his flat in Shrewsbury, Shropshire the next evening, according to the Guardian.
Mr Matthews, who exercised regularly, is understood to have told a local conspiracy theorist that he suffered from asthma – though his family said they were not aware of his condition and suggested he may have kept an inhaler on him to exempt himself from wearing a mask.
They insist that he did not believe Covid-19 was real, and would not adhere to government pandemic measures including social distancing and mask mandates. However, an autopsy has not taken place.
Britain has recorded more than 100,000 Covid-related deaths, with scientists claiming the victims could have been reduced if the government had taken tougher action earlier in the pandemic.
Gary Matthews, 46, had been ill for around a week before testing positive for coronavirus on January 12. He died alone in his flat in Shrewsbury, Shropshire the next evening, his family said
Mr Matthews, who exercised regularly, is understood to have told a local conspiracy theorist that he suffered from asthma – though his family said they were not aware of his condition and suggested he may have kept an inhaler on him to exempt himself from wearing a mask
Mr Matthews’ cousin Tristan Copeland said he had begged him to wear a mask and maintain social distance.
‘But he and his friends had the mindset that they needed to go out and meet people to show they didn’t believe the government,’ he said.
He called Mr Matthews ‘quite shy’ and was ‘led astray’ by conspiracy theorists he found on Facebook groups.
‘I think these groups gave him that. He was ripe to be adopted into it and they led him astray,’ Mr Copeland said.
‘About two or three years ago he became very concerned about the conflict in Syria from a humanitarian point of view.
‘I think he read a few stories which led him to distrust the media. Eventually that led him to some climate change denial groups which he started posting on.
His family said Mr Matthews did not believe Covid-19 was real, and would not adhere to government pandemic measures including social distancing and mask mandates
The announcement came after the UK’s death toll hit the grim milestone of 100,000
Westminster council goes to war with anti-vaxxers who use WhatsApp to target vulnerable Londoners with ‘dangerous narratives’ about Covid jab ‘changing peoples’ DNA’ in bid to put them off getting life-saving vaccine
Council officials warned anti-vaccination activists targeting vulnerable people will ‘cost lives’ as they revealed shocking conspiracy theory videos circulating online.
Unsubstantiated theories such as the Covid-19 vaccine not being safe because there hasn’t been enough time to test it are among those being shared via WhatsApp.
Other false claims include the jab changing the DNA of recipients and manufacturer Pfizer being untrustworthy because of lawsuits brought against it in the past.
Westminster City Council sent MailOnline three videos being circulated around residents – but this website will not publish them, to avoid them spreading further.
One of the videos quotes Dr Andrew Kaufman, a forensic psychiatrist from Syracuse, New York, saying: ‘This pandemic is not a real medical pandemic. The Covid-19 vaccine is not proven safe or effective because there has not been enough time.’
Also quoted is Hilde De Smet, a doctor from Belgium, adds: ‘Due to the excuse of a global pandemic, the pharma industry has the permission to skip the animal trials.
‘This means we humans will be the guinea pigs and we might get severe side effects when we are exposed to new viruses.’
A second video entitled ‘a trustworthy vaccine’ tells viewers: ‘It won’t be mandatory at the beginning, but judging from the large orders, a gradual plan will be implemented to persuade and incentivise people to take the vaccine and put restrictions on people that don’t, along with shaming campaigns.’
And a third quotes osteopath Carrie Madej as claiming the vaccines will change recipients’ DNA – another unsubstantiated claim.
Today, Westminster City Council leader Rachael Robathan condemned people who spread anti-vaxxer material as ‘peddlers of conspiracy fantasies’ who cost lives.
She also revealed that the groups and individuals against the vaccine were deliberately targeting vulnerable residents with print and online anti-jab material.
Ms Robathan said: ‘I have been extremely troubled to see dangerous narratives around the vaccines emerging within our communities.
‘Anti-vaccination propaganda is being deliberately targeted at some of our more vulnerable residents in print and via social media.
‘As the death toll soars, peddlers of conspiracy fantasies are trying to stop those uncertain about vaccination from getting it.
‘The community is fighting back with local people countering the false stories – our job as a council is to reinforce that with basic facts.’
‘When I came back to Shrewsbury we would hang out, and I would ask him if he actually believed this stuff. There was no swaying him. I’d show him a report to disprove the theory but he would come back with a less than reputable one that backed up his idea.
‘It’s just a way of thinking and it is hard to break people out of that.
‘He would tell me I was brainwashed by the media. This thinking is impenetrable when you are arguing with facts.’
Mr Copeland called his cousin a ‘brilliant artist’, adding: ‘He didn’t deserve that. No-one does… He was still a beloved member of the family and he didn’t change as a person.
‘It has been heartbreaking for the family. We’re still taking it all in. They were all very close. He’d speak to his family every other day. He had a sister and a niece and nephew.’
It comes after Michael Gove told Tory MP Sir Desmond Swayne to apologise after he allegedly spread falsehoods about coronavirus.
The Minister for the Cabinet Office said Sir Desmond was ‘out of order’ and he should issue a ‘full and complete retraction and apology for what he said’.
Labour had already accused former minister Sir Desmond of spreading ‘dangerous misinformation’ about coronavirus and called for the Tories to take action.
Angela Rayner, deputy Labour leader, has written to Conservative Party chairwoman Amanda Milling about alleged remarks made by the veteran politician in which he reportedly said that Covid-19 infection and mortality figures had been ‘manipulated’.
The government’s figure for coronavirus deaths passed 100,000 this week, with separate data published by statistics agencies placing the toll at 115,000.
More than 37,000 people are currently in hospital being treated for the virus, according to official data.
In comments reportedly made in November, the lockdown-sceptic Tory MP told the group Save Our Rights UK that the UK was ‘bouncing round at the typical level of deaths for the time of year’.
According to Sky News, Sir Desmond is alleged to have said: ‘It seems to be a manageable risk, particularly as figures have been manipulated… We’re told there is a deathly, deadly pandemic proceeding at the moment.
‘That is difficult to reconcile with ICUs (intensive care units) actually operating at typical occupation levels for the time of year and us bouncing round at the typical level of deaths for the time of year.’
Sir Desmond has denied that he is opposed to vaccinating people to protect them against the virus. But he has previously labelled lockdowns a ‘complete failure’.
Mr Gove told Sky News this morning: ‘Sir Desmond is wrong. I work with Sir Desmond, I have great affection for him but I’m afraid here he is completely out of order.’
He declined to say that Sir Desmond should have the whip removed but added: ‘I would hope that he issues a full and complete retraction and apology for what he said – it’s unacceptable.’
In her letter, Ms Rayner said the reports were ‘extremely concerning’.
‘During this interview, the MP for New Forest West endorsed conspiracy theories about the veracity of the disease,’ she said.
‘He also suggested the official figures have been manipulated – a deeply dangerous claim for which there is absolutely no evidence.
‘The seriousness of his actions cannot be understated. For a Member of Parliament to appear on this platform and undermine our fight against the pandemic could have truly devastating consequences.
‘Following Desmond Swayne’s shocking refusal to apologise for his behaviour, I urge you to make clear what action you will take. It is the duty of all of us to support the national effort to vaccinate Britain.’
Michael Gove has told Tory MP Sir Desmond Swayne to apologise after he allegedly claimed coronavirus statistics had been ‘manipulated’
Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), which has been investigating online misinformation about coronavirus and vaccines, said Sir Desmond’s words had given ‘legitimacy to crank anti-vaxxers’.
‘This MP’s judgment needs to be seriously questioned when, by virtue of association, he lends legitimacy to crank Anti-Vaxxers and peddlers of falsehoods about Covid,’ Mr Ahmed said.
‘When we wear a mask or get vaccinated, we don’t just protect ourselves, we also protect those we love, the community we spend time in, and in turn help secure our country against coronavirus.
‘While Covid continues to kill, turning science into a political football is a Trumpian act of grotesque irresponsibility.’
Sir Desmond took to Twitter to defend himself, posting: ‘Sky is wrong. Aside from my question to the PM this afternoon, an examination of my blogs will reveal that I am a most enthusiastic vaccinator.’