Belly Mujinga calls for investigation into presumed death from “viral cough attack”

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Ventre et mari Lusamba


There are calls for an investigation into the death of transport worker Belly Mujinga – who died after he was reportedly coughed and spat out by a passenger who said he had the virus.

BBC Panorama looked at the events leading up to the death of the 47-year-old man, who died in April this year from Covid-19.

Police investigated Belly’s death – but they concluded there was not enough evidence to charge anyone.

But lawyers say an investigation could help her family find answers.

Lawyer Christopher Williams told Panorama: “If Belly’s family wants to open an investigation, that’s one way to get justice.

“The result of the investigation may not give them the result they are looking for, but the important thing is that they have the opportunity to follow the process. “

Belly Mujinga worked as a saleswoman at Victoria Station in London for Govia Thameslink Railway. She suffered from a condition known as sarcoidosis, which affected her throat and lungs and made it difficult for her to breathe.

On March 21, she was on call in the station concourse with her friend and colleague Motolani Sunmola, when they were involved in an incident with a customer.

Motolani, 52, says they were approached by a man who coughed them up and told them: “You know I have the virus. ”

Belly’s husband, Lusamba Gode Katalay, told Panorama that when she returned from work that day, she said someone spat on her.

Motolani says she and Belly reported the incident to their employer that day. She says she described what happened as an assault and demanded that the police be called. But she says she didn’t tell managers the man said he had the virus.

Govia Thameslink Railway said neither Belly, nor any of her colleagues present at the time, had made a complaint of deliberate coughing or spitting, nor asked the police to be called.

However, on April 8, Belly’s union, the Transportation Employees Association (TSSA), told GTR that an allegation of deliberate coughing was being made.

The company launched its own internal investigation – but did not call the police at the time, or at any time.

In the days that followed, Belly became increasingly ill. She was admitted to hospital on April 2. Three days later, Belly – mother of a child – died.

Her husband told Panorama: “You just lost a person who was at the center of your universe – a person who left behind an 11 year old little girl. ”

His death could have remained one of the thousands of private tragedies that swept the country in the first wave of coronavirus – if his union had not made his case public.

On May 12, the TSSA issued a press release stating that Belly was assaulted by a man who deliberately coughed and spat on him, claiming he had the virus.

Following requests from the press, the UK Transport Police began to investigate.

Boris Johnson told MPs: “Yesterday this House learned of the tragic death of Belly Mujinga. The fact that she was mistreated for doing her job is absolutely appalling. ”

By now, seven weeks had passed since the incident – and police should work with the evidence available.

The station’s lobby video surveillance is systematically removed after approximately 28 days. However, GTR requested footage from Network Rail as part of its own investigation and turned over six minutes of footage, including the incident, to police.

The footage was not released, but BBC Panorama spoke to a number of people who saw it and obtained an audio recording of a meeting where officers showed the footage to Belly’s husband and her friends.

They say the footage was of poor quality, but it clearly shows something has happened. They describe seeing the man approaching Belly and retiring, before running away.

The policeman said: “We are convinced that something has happened there. We don’t doubt it. But the footage wasn’t clear enough to show whether an offense, involving coughing or deliberate spitting, had taken place.

British Transport Police used ticket registers to locate and question a 57-year-old man. He denied spitting and said he coughed, but not on purpose. He also denied saying he had the virus.

There was a second witness, also a member of the station staff, who said the man did not say “I have the virus”.

Police also said they were convinced the man could not have infected Belly because he had been tested for antibodies “as part of his occupation” four days after the incident. It was negative, showing that he had never had the disease.

But at the time, not all commercially available tests were considered reliable.

University of Birmingham professor Alex Richter, who studied some of the tests available at the time, told the program: “The quality of the tests available in March was really no better than flipping a coin. “

Learn more about the death of Belly Mujinga

The British Transport Police said the test had been “corroborated” by the man’s GP and that, whatever the outcome of the test, there was still insufficient evidence to charge anyone with a crime.

The Crown Prosecution Service, which reviewed the police investigation, agreed and said: “In the absence of any medical or forensic evidence, as well as inconclusive CCTV footage and inconsistent testimony, no criminal charge could be made. be considered. ”

Govia Thameslink Railway said: “Belly Mujinga’s medical condition was not on the government protection list at the time of the incident.

“If that had been the case, the company would have told him to protect, as we did with almost 400 other colleagues. The following week, after the incident, her doctors said she should actually protect.

“At that point, he was told not to come to work and to isolate himself”.

There has been no investigation into his death, but lawyers interviewed by BBC Panorama believe his family could be helped in their search for the truth.

Martin Forde QC told the program: “I think there are enough doubts and conflicts surrounding the facts of this case to warrant an investigation. ”

For her husband Lusamba, many questions about her death remain unanswered.

“May she rest wherever she is,” he said. “But it’s really difficult. I will try to fight. “

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