They were the lovestruck images intended to bury what has been a weekend of bad news for Boris Johnson.
It was hoped the grainy pictures, showing the wannabe Prime Minister hand-in-hand with his girlfriend Carrie Symonds, would move attention on from torrid headlines such as "Boris Wants To Get Back With His Wife" and "Boris & Carrie 4 Rows in 6 Weeks".
Yet Monday's photo 'exclusive', showing the couple "together for the first time" since their "police row" raised more questions than answers about a saga which started with a spilled glass of red wine in the early hours of Friday morning.
It is still not clear when the images - which carry all the hallmarks of being staged - were taken, or where or by whom exactly.
With no official confirmation of such facts forthcoming from Johnson's team after they emerged online on Monday, the Westminster rumour mill has continued to churn over the story, which is now on day four.
Aides had hoped coverage of the incident - in which Symonds was allegedly heard yelling "get off me" and "get out of my flat" - would have died down after the neighbours who handed a recording of the row to the police and the Guardian newspaper were exposed as a pair of left-wing arch remainers accused of a 'vendetta' against Johnson.
Accusing the 'hostile eavesdroppers' of being part of a politically-motivated attack that has culminated in the couple's Camberwell flat being besieged by protesters, friends have rubbished rumours of a split, insisting that Johnson, 55, and his 31-year-old girlfriend "love each other very much and want to get married as soon as the time is right."
According to Symond's close friend Nimco Ali: "This whole thing has brought them even closer together".
Yet with insiders suggesting that Symonds was the driving force behind what appear to have all the hallmarks of staged photographs, could the clumsy PR attempt actually have done more harm than good?
Believed to have been taken by one of Symonds' female friends in the Sussex garden of another close confidante, the two cameraphone pictures first raised eyebrows when they appeared on a news website without any credit or fees attached on Monday morning.
'Screaming, shouting and banging': Police called to disturbance at Boris Johnson's home
Although dressed down in a checked shirt and with his back to the camera, blond-haired Johnson appears unmistakable in the images as he leans over a picnic table holding smiling Symonds's hand.
Parallels were inevitably drawn with David and Victoria Beckham's stage managed show of togetherness in the French Alps following his alleged 2004 affair with Rebecca Loos, and the first 'picnic table' image that emerged of Hugh Grant and Liz Hurley following his Sunset Boulevard encounter with prostitute Divine Brown in 1995.
As one paparazzo told the Telegraph: "The whole thing is so obviously staged. It's real amateur hour stuff. If you wanted to do it properly you'd have used a long lens and have people in the way to make it look more authentic.
"And if it had been taken by a real photographer, of course they would have charged for it. In fact even members of the public know the papers pay for pictures these days. The fact that it was put out without anyone's name on it, for nothing, tells you it was an inside job."
It is thought to be the third time Symonds has enlisted the friend to take a staged photograph. An eerily similar picture appeared on the Mail Online website last September after she was thrust into the public domain following the news that Johnson was separating from Marina Wheeler, his wife of 25 years.
The image, which carried no credit or fee, again showed Symonds sitting at a table in the countryside. According to sources, another photograph was staged in January, this time in a car park and featuring Symonds walking with Johnson. The accompanying story suggested the couple were "clearly smitten with each other".
To add to the confusion, sources close to Johnson said he had been resistant to the idea of appearing in public with his girlfriend to debunk suggestions that they are on the verge of splitting up.
Instead, he appeared keen to reset the dial with a column in the Telegraph renewing his commitment to leaving the European Union on October 31.
In an attempt to turn the attention from his personal life to his policies, he insisted he would not "bottle Brexit", saying "we can, we must and we will" leave on the promised date.
The comments hit back at his rival Jeremy Hunt, who told him not to "bottle it" when asked to take part in another TV debate and address criticism that he has been wavering over the exit date.
Writing in the Telegraph on the third anniversary of the referendum result, Johnson declared that the focus once Brexit is done should be to "turbocharge" the economy, adding: "What do you want? Higher pay under the Tories or higher taxes under Labour?"
Johnson's supporters, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, then took to the airwaves to defend him, with the chairman of the influential European Research Group of Tory MPs hitting out as what he described as the "Corbynista curtain twitchers" who had made the recording.
As insiders suggested Eve Leigh, 34, and Tom Penn, 30,had been "eavesdropping" on their neighbours - a claim they deny, insisting they were only concerned for the couple's welfare - Johnson and Symonds, Rees-Mogg told LBC: "I think the idea that snooping neighbours are recording what is going on for political advantage and then Class War protesters are coming to politicians' front doors - which happened to me as well - is not a good place for politics to be."
Insisting Johnson was right to avoid questions on Friday night's row, he added: "Once you start saying 'I am going to answer these questions', then every question is opened up."
Yet the staged photographs now open the couple up to the altogether more undermining accusation that they have invaded their own privacy.
They have also fuelled a number of hysterical conspiracy theories online, including suggestions that the photographs were taken before Sunday, as had been suggested, and that they might not even feature Johnson but a lookalike.
Observers pointed to the fact that the former London mayor's distinctive blond mop appears longer in the images than it did at Saturday's leadership hustings in Birmingham.
Preposterous they may be, but such suggestions are not necessarily what Johnson's campaign team wants the public to be focused on with bookmakers shortening the odds of his rival Hunt becoming the next Prime Minister to 9/2 since Thursday night.
"What looked like a one horse race could develop into a proper competition for punters if controversy continues to plague him through the contest," said Betfair's Katie Bayliss.
Having been accused by the foreign secretary of "ducking" Tuesday's planned Sky News debate, one of Johnson's supporters hit out at Hunt, saying he was in danger of losing his "carefully cultivated Mr Nice Guy image."
The veteran Tory said: "Mr Nice is turning into Mr Nasty over this. He's doing the one thing you should never do in a campaign which is get sucked into what the other side are doing. The number one rule of political campaigning is to play your own game.
"Boris has done an interview with Laura Kuennsberg, two televised hustings, he's got the ITV debate planned, and a raft of further hustings and interviews. He doesn't want to see this kind of blue on blue action with respected Tory politicians attacking each other.
"This storm in a teacup doesn't change anything. I don't know of one Conservative party member who has changed their minds about Boris over this. He's been very clear - he won't discuss his private life and nor should he.
"A lot of the membership sympathises with him because we've all been there. We've all had flaming rows with our partners - it's happened to anyone who has ever been in a relationship."
Profile: Boris Johnson
Former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Born: 19 June 1964 (age 55)
Constituency: Conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip since 2015
Education: Eton College; Classics at Balliol College, Oxford
Before politics: Trainee reporter for The Times before holding various roles at The Daily Telegraph and later becoming editor of The Spectator
Did you know? His full name is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.
• MP for Henley on Thames (2001 – 2008)
• Shadow Arts Minister (2004)
• Shadow Higher Education Minister (2005 – 2007)
• Mayor of London (2008 – 2016)
• MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (2015 – incumbent)
• Foreign Secretary (2016 – 2018)
Quote: "My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive." Boris Johnson on becoming Prime Minister, 2012 interview.