PENNY Mordaunt has said that a series of WhatsApp messages she shared with Boris Johnson have disappeared from her phone.

In a statement to the Covid Inquiry, Mordaunt claimed that Johnson’s then chief of staff ignored 14 attempts by her to arrange a meeting to discuss the issue, and that she was told by the Cabinet Office that it would cost about £40,000 to examine her phone and find out what happened.

It comes after it was revealed that about 5000 WhatsApp messages on the former prime minister’s phone from January 30, 2020 to June 2020 were also unavailable to the inquiry – potentially due to a factory reset.

Mordaunt, who was Johnson’s paymaster general during the Covid period, said that in early May 2021 during scrutiny of the Government’s response, she had checked her phone for a message she had apparently sent to Johnson “to raise the issue of shielding in care homes” and that she received a reply.

The National: Prime Minister Boris Johnson will start giving his evidence to the Covid-19 inquiry on Wednesday (Tolga Akmen/PA)

She then claimed that she could find no messages to or from Johnson between March 2018 and March 2020.

The statement went on: “After some time it was suggested to us that because of a security breach the PM may have deleted all his messages and switched off his phone. However, this was portrayed to me as speculation on the part of the No 10 security team and would not explain why I had some messages and not others.”

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Mordaunt then said she asked for a meeting with Dan Rosenfield, Johnson’s chief of staff.

“From memory, we asked 14 times for a meeting with him, but had no response from his team, despite my office chasing this,” she said.

“I offered to have my phone forensically examined if this would help. I was told, after some chasing, that they would be happy to do this, but as my phone was my own personal device the CO [Cabinet Office] would have to charge me for this.

“The estimated bill was approximately £1000 per day for six weeks’ work. I did some research with the government-approved cybersecurity contractors as to their rates and an initial interrogation of my phone would have costed approximately £1000.”