Man sought over abusive comments to hospital staff

Police have issued an appeal to trace a 45-year-old man after a group of people refused to wear masks in hospital and then became abusive to staff as well as posting offensive social media comments.

Surrey Police released a photograph of Toby Hayden-Leigh, from Maidstone, Kent, in connection with the incident at the East Surrey Hospital in Redhill on January 21.

A police spokesman said a number of comments as well as videos which were abusive towards hospital staff were posted on social media on January 23.

He said: “On investigation, these posts related to an earlier incident at the hospital, on Thursday 21 January, when a number of people, some of whom were not wearing masks, gained access to the critical care ward to visit a family member and were abusive towards hospital staff when they were asked to do so. They also refused to leave.

“Officers attended and issued fines to two individuals involved for breaching Covid restrictions and issued a breach of the peace warning, which resulted in the group leaving the location.”

Detective Chief Inspector Kimball Edey said: “We would like to speak to Hayden-Leigh in connection with this incident, and the escalating abusive and threatening comments being made towards hospital staff on social media.

“These comments are extremely concerning, and are obviously causing considerable distress for those who are being targeted.

“The staff at the hospital, as are all NHS workers, are trying to care for desperately-ill people in extremely challenging circumstances, and to be targeted and abused on social media in this way is simply unacceptable.”

He added: “We also need to track Hayden-Leigh down as a matter of urgency due to the public health risk he poses.

“He came into close proximity with a patient who remains seriously ill with Covid and may well have contracted the virus himself.

“We are appealing for any information and any help we can get from the public to find this man so that we can deal with him appropriately.”