PROFESSOR Neil Ferguson has been defended by his mother-in-law after breaking lockdown rules to meet his married lover behind his wife’s back.

Eileen Pirie, 79, said he has been “working his socks off” and asked whether it is “really such a big deal” to break rules while lecturing the public on the need for strict social distancing.

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The shamed professor, 52, resigned from all government roles after he invited lover Antonia Staats, 38, to visit him at his London home at least twice during the lockdown.

But his behaviour has been defended by his wife’s mother, who said he and her daughter Kim Polgreen are “no longer close”.

Ms Pirie, from Oxford, told MailOnline: “I think it is absolutely disgraceful the things that are being said about him.

“All of this derision because he invited a woman into his flat? Is this really such a big deal? I think we need to get things in perspective.

“Neil has organised, not single-handedly but to a great degree, our getting out of this huge and awful situation that we are all in.


“He has taken so much of his own personal time over this. He never has any feeling of watching the clock. It doesn't matter what the time is, he just works.

“I just cannot understand how someone who has done so much good for this country can be vilified in this way.”

She added: “I guess he shouldn't have done it, but he has had the virus and he has huge responsibilities and just a few friends. This is another of them and he invited her in. Is she a girlfriend?

“Maybe, I don't know but what I do know is that he has been working his socks off for this country and this is how he is repaid.

“Should he have had a woman in to see him? If I invite a man into my house, does the world rock? We need a sense of perspective.”

Mrs Pirie said Dr Ferguson and her daughter Kim – who have a 16-year-old son together – separated a few years ago but are still “incredibly close as a family”.

What I do know is that he has been working his socks off for this country and this is how he is repaid.

The couple spent Christmas together and Neil did the cooking and the pair remain to be “incredibly supportive of each other”, she added.

It comes after his lover Antonia said the coronavirus lockdown had 'strained' her marriage – a day after the couple met up.

The social campaigner travelled to Ferguson's house from her £1.9million home in South London on March 30 then again on April 8.

In a podcast on March 31 – a day after the first meeting – Ms Staats said how lockdown had seen "everyone shouting at each other" at her home.

She said: "I think it's also a strain on – maybe strained has sounded too negative – but it's an interesting relationship challenge, for Chris [her husband] and my relationship."

She added: "This is only week two of school being closed.


"And I think our first week had some really good days, some days where everyone was shouting at each other and, yeah, the prospect of doing this for several months it doesn't seems awful, but it seems like quite a serious challenge to be doing."

Ms Staats and her husband Chris Lucas live together with their two children but are understood to be in an open marriage.

Disgraced Prof Ferguson quit from government and said he accepted he had made an "error of judgement and took the wrong course of action".

He was reported to have met Ms Staat on the OkCupid app.

She is said to have angrily rejected being labelled his "mistress" because she is in an open marriage and free to meet other men.

Her husband Chris – who lives mortgage-free in a smart Victorian end terrace once occupied by his parents – speaks at least six languages and is an expert in Middle East issues.

The professor's wife Kim yesterday put a message on her neighbourhood WhatsApp group saying she did not want to talk about her estranged husband's behaviour.

It was also disclosed that Professor Ferguson lectured the nation on BBC Radio 4 on March 30 about the importance of staying at home – on the same day his lover visited.

He whisked her round to his West London pad hours after his two-week quarantine ended following his positive coronavirus test.


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