UK: Solidarity and grief after death of assaulted railway worker

Belly Mujinga, a mother of one, died two weeks after a member of the public claiming to have COVID-19 spat at her.

London Victoria Station
The spitting assault, which may have caused Belly Mujinga's death, took place at London's Victoria Station [Isabel Infantes/AFP]

The case of Belly Mujinga, a railway worker who died after an angry passenger claiming to have coronavirus spat at her, has seen an outpouring of grief and shock in the United Kingdom.

At the time of publishing, a crowdfunding campaign for the family had raised 18,190 pounds ($22,400), while a petition calling for the individual who assaulted Mujinga to be found had about 2,000 signatures.

Transport union TSSA said Mujinga, a mother of one, contracted the coronavirus along with a colleague within days of the attack on the pair at London’s Victoria station on March 22.

“They were out on the concourse by the ticket office when they were assaulted by a member of the public who spat at them,” the union said in a statement.

“The man coughed over them and told them he had the virus.”

After the assault, Mujinga demanded protective equipment to be safeguarded from the public, but this was not provided.

Several days later, Mujinga’s doctor requested she be given sick leave, noting she suffered from underlying respiratory problems, the TSSA said.

She was then stood down from work, but grew sicker and on April 2 was taken to hospital and put on a ventilator, it added.

Mujinga died three days later, leaving behind an 11-year-old daughter and husband.

The union said it had reported the case to rail industry safety watchdogs for investigation and was also taking legal advice “on the situation and supporting her family and colleagues”.

TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said Mujinga was “one of far too many front-line workers who have lost their lives to coronavirus”.

He called for the families of all such workers who have died from COVID-19 to receive government compensation, which has so far only been promised to healthcare worker victims.

Cortes also questioned if Southern Railway did enough to protect her and its other staff from the virus.

“There are serious questions about her death, it wasn’t inevitable,” Cortes said.

Angie Doll, managing director of Southern Railway, said the company was “devastated” by Mujinga’s death.

“We take any allegations extremely seriously, and we are investigating these claims,” she added, noting the safety of customers and staff “continues to be front of mind at all times”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the attack “despicable”.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies