Railway worker and mother-of-one dies of coronavirus after being spat on at work

12 May 2020, 15:27

Belly Mujinga worked at Victoria Station in London
Belly Mujinga worked at Victoria Station in London. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

A railway ticket office worker and mother-of-one has been hailed as "a good person, a good mother, and a good wife" after she died of coronavirus after allegedly being spat at while on duty.

Belly Mujinga, 47, was on the concourse of Victoria station in London in March when a member of the public who said he had Covid-19 spat and coughed at her and a colleague.

Within days of the assault, both women fell ill with the virus.

Ms Mujinga, who had underlying respiratory problems, was admitted to Barnet Hospital and put on a ventilator but died on April 5, her trade union, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), said.

Ten people attended her funeral.

Belly Mujinga was spat and coughed at whilst at work
Belly Mujinga was spat and coughed at whilst at work. Picture: Family handout/Belly Mujinga/PA

Her devastated widower has said she was "a good person, a good mother, and a good wife" who cared for everybody, .

Her husband, Lusamba Gode Katalay, said the suspect walked up to Ms Mujinga and spat in her face.

He said: "The man asked her what she was doing, why she was there, and she said they were working.

"The man said he had the virus and spat on them. They reported it to their supervisor.

"Belly came home and told me everything."

Mr Katalay said his wife had an operation four years ago and had underlying respiratory problems. Within a week of the incident, she began to feel ill and was admitted to hospital on April 2.

"That was the last time I saw her," Mr Katalay said.

"We just said: 'Be good,' and that God is in charge.

"We did a WhatsApp video in hospital, but then I didn't hear from her again. I thought she might be asleep, but the doctor to phoned me to tell me she had died."

Ms Mujinga was originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo and moved to the UK in 2000.

Mr Katalay said: "She was a good person, a good mother, and a good wife.

"She gave her friendship to many people. She was a caring person and would take care of everybody."

British Transport Police have made a statement
British Transport Police have made a statement. Picture: Family handout/Belly Mujinga/PA

The union has reported the incident to the Railways Inspectorate, the safety arm of the Office for Road and Rail (ORR), for investigation and is taking legal advice on the situation.

British Transport Police said in a statement: “British Transport Police have now launched an investigation into a report of two members of rail staff being spat at while working at London Victoria station on 22nd March.

"One of the victims, a 47-year-old woman, very sadly died in hospital on April 5th .

"Enquiries are ongoing and anyone who has any information is asked to contact BTP by texting 61016 or calling 0800 40 50 40 quoting reference 359 of 11/05/20.”

Angie Doll, Managing Director, Southern Railway and Gatwick Express said: “We are devastated that our dedicated colleague Belly has passed away and our deepest sympathies are with her family with whom we have been in touch with through this very difficult time.

“Tragically, many people across the country have now been directly affected by Covid-19, including those in the rail industry who are doing the vital job of ensuring train services can continue. 

“We take any allegations extremely seriously, and we are investigating these claims. The safety of our customers and staff, who are key workers themselves, continues to be front of mind at all times and we follow the latest Government advice. We urge people only to travel if it is absolutely essential.”

Southern Railway and Gatwick Express said they are "devastated"
Southern Railway and Gatwick Express said they are "devastated". Picture: PA

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TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: "We are shocked and devastated at Belly's death. She is one of far too many frontline workers who have lost their lives to coronavirus.

"The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, recently announced that £60,000 would be paid to the survivors of health and care workers who die as a result of the pandemic.

"Our view is that this compensation should be extended to the families of all frontline workers who perish trying to keep our country and vital services going.

"Sadly, Belly's is just one of many family tragedies where children have had their parents taken away from them.

"However, there are serious questions about her death; it wasn't inevitable.

"As a vulnerable person in the 'at risk' category, and her condition known to her employer, there are questions about why she wasn't stood down from frontline duties early on in this pandemic.

"Rather than talking about the easing the lockdown, the government must first ensure that the right precautions and protections have been taken so that more lives are not lost.

"Anyone who is vulnerable should remain at home and home working should be the default wherever possible.

"Our rail industry needs to have a very serious look at what tasks are deemed 'essential' and must put protections in place for all our members and our passengers."