Matt Hancock has told a court he feared an anti-vaxxer would push him down an escalator during a confrontation over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Geza Tarjanyi, 62, denies causing harassment without violence after allegedly targeting the former health secretary on two separate occasions in January this year.
Giving evidence at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Mr Hancock said: “As a public figure, I can’t recall a time when I felt as intimidated as this.”
During the first incident on 19 January, Mr Hancock was walking past an anti-vaccination protest near Parliament with a member of his staff when Tarjanyi filmed him while asking why he had “killed so many people”, before shoulder barging him, the court heard.
The MP for West Suffolk said he felt “physically intimidated” and “needed to get to a place of safety” during the five-minute interaction, describing the defendant as being “completely unreasonable”.
“It made me feel unsafe going about my place of work, it made me frustrated that instead of engaging in a normal debate, someone was trying to intimidate me, I thought that was unacceptable.
“I had a pretty good impression he was taken over by these ridiculous conspiracy theories,” he told the court.
During the second incident, the defendant is alleged to have followed Mr Hancock through Westminster underground station around 8am on 24 January, before boarding the same train.
The politician, who had just had breakfast with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, told the court he recognised the defendant and felt “more intimidated” because he was alone.
He asked Transport for London (TfL) staff to intervene – but claimed Tarjanyi began harassing “anyone who came to my aid”.
Mr Hancock said he stopped at the top of an escalator to “resolve the situation” – but that he was “being pushed from behind”.
“Obviously I was extremely worried at this time,” he told the court.
“If I had lost my balance at this point, I would have tumbled down the escalator.
“I had to work to maintain my balance and stop myself falling down the escalator.”
Both men boarded a Jubilee Line train before Tarjanyi accused Mr Hancock of “murdering millions of people” and branded him a “murderous scumbag”, the court heard.
The confrontation ended when they were separated at Bond Street station.
Mr Hancock said he didn’t get on the Tube for some time after due to fears of further incidents that could “put my safety at risk”.
However, the defendant claims the MP “barged into him” and denies assaulting him in “any way, shape or form”.
Defending, Parveen Mansoor suggested Tarjanyi walked into Mr Hancock after he stopped on the escalator.
But he responded: “Oh please… the idea that it was my fault he walked into me is ridiculous.”
Mr Hancock rebuffed claims he exaggerated what happened on both occasions to “get sympathy” or silence the defendant.
“I wouldn’t make such an accusation lightly, and I certainly wouldn’t if it was untrue,” he said.
Mr Hancock did not report the first incident on 19 January – telling the court he didn’t want to give the defendant the “oxygen of publicity for wholly false and dangerous conspiracy theories.”
‘Two faced’ Hancock was like a ‘headless chicken’ during COVID vaccine drive
Hancock wanted to ‘frighten the pants off everyone’ about COVID, leaked WhatsApp messages say
The former health secretary resigned in disgrace after admitting to breaching his own social-distancing guidelines when leaked CCTV showed him kissing his married lover, aide Gina Coladangelo, in his office.
He later found himself embroiled in further scandal when he jetted to the Australian jungle for a controversial appearance on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here – which led to the whip being suspended.
A source close to Mr Hancock revealed he “doesn’t expect to serve in government again” – before he announced he would not contest his seat at the next election.
The trial has been adjourned until 4 July.