The extraordinary drama saw the unidentified man – who is in his 40s and believed to be from Liverpool – being pulled out of a train after making an emergency stop in Lille, northern France.
He was then surrounded by at least eight uniformed officers, and was left stranded when the train resumed its journey to England.
“I’ve done nothing wrong and respect all coronavirus rules – it’s absolutely outrageous,” he said, as he was taken away on Thursday afternoon in front of other stunned passengers.
He continued: “I have absolutely no idea what this is all about, except that a member of Eurostar staff disliked me very much, and accused me of not wearing the right kind of mask.
“Now I’m going to be alone in France, when I just wanted to go home from a work trip. That’s very cruel behavior. We should all move on, not treating each other like that.”
Other passengers then complained about an unscheduled, unannounced stop in Lille causing a delay of about 15 minutes.
“Why is Eurostar stopping its trains, and delaying hundreds of passengers, because of a small dispute over a man’s mask?” Said one.
The female Eurostar manager – who remained on the train after the man was detained – confirmed she had reported him for wearing the “wrong type of mask” to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
When asked why the man was taken off the train, one of the Lille police officers confirmed he had been arrested, adding: “We don’t know why, we’ll have to find out.”
The drama unfolded shortly after Eurostar 9031 left Paris Gare du Nord at 1.13pm French time on Thursday.
This was due to travel directly to London, in order to arrive at St Pancras at 2.39 pm UK time – only two and a half hours later.
Within minutes of departure, the Eurostar manager got into a heated argument with the man.
He accused her of not following health and safety rules, and said the black mask she was wearing was not appropriate.
All passengers on Eurostar are expected to wear masks at all times, except when they are eating or drinking.
There was a buffet on the train, and many passengers in Coach 13 – where the man sat alone by a window in a two-seater row – had removed their masks altogether, as they had sandwiches and drinks.
Despite this, the manager scolded the person, and then used the radio to call another staff member.
She then said she would alert the police in Lille, to ensure that the man was removed “as quickly as possible”.
The businessman then replaced his black mask with a blue one provided by another passenger. He apologized, and it appeared that he avoided any further action.
But as the train approached Lille, it made an unscheduled stop, and three armed officers boarded while others waited on the platform.
“It was ridiculous,” said another passenger, a 32-year-old London woman who asked to be referred to by her first name, Lee.
“The Eurostar woman was telling the police what to do, and insisted that the poor man be removed, as if he were some kind of criminal.
“He was actually very reasonable, and wasn’t swearing or acting in any kind of disruptive way—everyone else was on his side, but he was put off and we didn’t see him again.”
The Eurostar manager remained on the train until Saint-Pancras, and was seen leaving the train with a rucksack.
Eurostar later released a statement about the man’s arrest by police.
It read: “Eurostar’s conditions of carriage clearly state that a face mask must be worn for the entire journey within and on board the stations, and failure to comply with this may result in refusal to travel.
“Unfortunately, on Thursday a passenger aboard a service from Paris to the UK repeatedly removed his mask both in station and on board, despite gentle reminders from staff.
“During the journey, the passenger became aggressive and intimidated towards the on-board team when they politely reminded him to wear a mask as required under our conditions of carriage.
“Eurostar teams have a responsibility to ensure the safety of all of them, and this kind of behavior towards our employees cannot be tolerated. As a result, the passenger was asked to leave the train at Lille station and in this situation the police It is normal practice to be present and assist.