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Tuesday, Mar 02, 2021

Married fire chief is investigated by bosses for breaking lockdown rules by driving 20 miles to spending afternoons at home of his former secretary

Married fire chief is investigated by bosses for breaking lockdown rules by driving 20 miles to spending afternoons at home of his former secretary

Mark Andrews, 49, the Deputy Chief Officer at West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, is being investigated for regularly visiting the home of his former secretary Anna Colwell, 34, in Worthing.

A married senior fire officer is being investigated by his bosses for regularly visiting his former secretary at her home.

Mark Andrews, 49, the £105,000-a-year Deputy Chief Officer at West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, drove 20 miles to see Anna Colwell, 34, even though she no longer works for him.

The father-of-two is under investigation by superiors at the fire and rescue service for breaking Covid lockdown rules.

At first he claimed they were 'work colleagues' but then admitted that in fact Mrs Colwell is now employed by an entirely separate fire brigade.

'I have to face the consequences frankly. But anything I say will be incriminating and difficult,' said Mr Andrews when confronted by MailOnline.


Mark Andrews (left), 49, the £105,000-a-year Deputy Chief Officer at West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, is being investigated for visiting his former secretary Anna Colwell, 34, (right)


Married Mr Andrews and his former secretary Mrs Colwall were pictured this week travelling in her Mini without wearing masks despite the fact that they are not in the same household


Mr Andrews is married to Judy Andrews (left), 58, with whom he has a son and daughter. Mrs Colwell (right) was hired as his assistant last April, in which he chaired the recruiting panel

Government rules state that two households should not mix to help battle the spread of Covid-19, and Mr Andrews has been a strong supporter of the anti-Covid rules on social media.

Mr Andrews and Mrs Colwell were seen to meet on two successive days at her marital home in Worthing, West Sussex, this week.

At one point they drove together in her white Mini without masks, after Mr Andrews had parked his own Volvo some distance away from the property.

Angry colleagues last night branded him a 'hypocrite' for flouting the rules, and he now faces an investigation from his employers.

A fire service source told MailOnline: 'It is disappointing, in fact it is hypocritical, for him to be breaking social distancing rules at a time when the Fire services are telling everybody to be safe by adhering to Government restrictions.

'The picture of him next to his former assistant in a car and with neither wearing a mask during the lockdown will not help promote safety during this pandemic.

'It could help do the reverse and lead members of the public to ease up and say 'Well, if he can do that, why should we listen to the advice and rules they give us'?'

Mr Andrews and Mrs Colwell, who is believed to have separated from her husband, met while working at East Sussex Fire services headquarters where she was a secretary and working for East Sussex police, which shares the same HQ in Lewes.

When Mr Andrews was looking for an assistant last April, she applied for the job and he chaired the interview panel which appointed her.

In August, he re-joined West Sussex Fire Service where he began his career more than 25 years ago, but their friendship continued after his departure.

On Tuesday morning, Mr Andrews , who has grown up twins with his wife, visited Ms Colwell's home, driving around for a few minutes before pulling up in front of the house.


Colleagues have slammed Mr Andrews as a 'hypocrite' for travelling in Mrs Colwell's Mini without a mask and spending afternoons at her home while being a advocating lockdown rules


They spent four hours together, and when Mrs Colwell emerged, she walked up and down the street, peering into parked cars, before returning to the house and then Mr Andrews emerged with her a few minutes later and they both got into her Mini without masks.

On Wednesday afternoon he returned, carrying an orange plastic bag and a rucksack.

He let himself in by a side entrance and after closing the wooden gate, peered back over it towards the street.

As night fell, a takeaway food order was delivered to Mrs Colwell's home by car.

Asked if he had broken lockdown rules, Mr Andrews said of Mrs Colwell: 'She is a work colleague so clearly I had some work to do. But... in a way that didn't compromise myself.

Told that she was no longer a colleague as he claimed, but a former colleague, he said: 'That is right.'

He added: 'I have to face the consequences frankly. But anything I say will be incriminating and difficult so I just need to absorb what you are saying to me. '

Asked the nature of their work, he said: 'It is just collaborative work in the services which you will see in the record.'


Mr Andrews pictured with his wife Judy on holiday two years ago. He faces an investigation


Mr Andrews lives with his wife and their two children 20 miles away from his former assitant's home in this beautiful detached, gated home worth approximately £1.5 million in Horsham

Asked why he'd parked so far from Mrs Colwell's home, he said 'I've no further comment gentlemen.'

Mr Andrew’s employers West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service has launched an investigation.

‘All staff are expected to follow COVID-19 regulations and any reports of a breach of that would be investigated on a case by case basis,' said a spokesman.

Mr Andrews has been a vocal supporter of the Covid-19 restrictions and is vice-chair of the Sussex Resilience Forum, made up of emergency and contingency support groups in the area.

Last week it tweeted: 'Not only are we in a national lockdown but the #Sussex LRF has declared a major incident in order that public services can escalate their response to the unprecedented pressures of #Covid19 on the county.

'Please follow government rules and stay at home.'

On New Year's Eve he retweeted a message from his Fire Service which said: 'It's really important we all do our bit to stop #COVID19 spreading. Please follow the latest guidelines and stay safe this New Year's Eve by celebrating at home.'

Throughout the lockdown, Mr Andrews, a key worker, has been working and conducting meetings by 'Zoom', but Fire chiefs will now demand to know why he attended Mrs Colwell's house in person.

He lives with his wife Judy, 58, and son and daughter in a £1.5million detached house with a gated drive in Horsham.

Mr Andrews (right) has been a vocal supporter of the Covid-19 restrictions and is vice-chair of the Sussex Resilience Forum, made up of emergency support groups in the area

Mrs Colwell is separated from accountant Richard, 36, who works for an accountancy firm in Brighton and they have two young sons.

She was a civilian police worker before being appointed to be Mr Andrew's assistant and has continued in her job after his departure.

Mr Andrews' boss Chief Fire Officer Sabrina Cohen Hatton Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, said on his appointment last summer: 'I was greatly impressed by Mark's people-centred approach and I am confident this appointment will help the service to continually improve its service to the public.

'I know that he will make a significant contribution to our leadership team.'

Mrs Colwell, asked at her Worthing home why she had broken lock down rules with Mr Andrews, said: 'I have no comment.'

Her estranged husband also said he preferred to say nothing about the matter.



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