Family of Belly Mujinga call for police to disclose spitting suspect’s name
Luke Powell and Edd Dracott, PAMon, 5 April 2021, 2:56 pm
The family of a railway worker who died with Covid-19 after allegedly being spat at have called for police to disclose the suspect’s name.
Belly Mujinga, 47, died on April 5 last year with coronavirus after she was reportedly coughed on and spat at days earlier by a white customer at London’s Victoria station.
British Transport Police (BTP) interviewed a 57-year-old man over the incident but said there was not enough evidence that a crime had taken place.
A lawyer for Mrs Mujinga’s family, Lawrence Davies, said the force had refused to disclose the suspect’s name, preventing them from pursuing a private prosecution and further civil claims.
Speaking on the anniversary of the university graduate’s death on Monday, Mr Davies told the PA news agency: “We are pushing for two things, an inquest and the name of the man who (allegedly) assaulted her.
“But the BTP won’t give the name. They have stonewalled me since September, so the family has complained to the IOPC (Independent Office for Police Conduct).”
Mr Davies said the family was seeking the suspect’s name so they could consider suing him for harassment and assault.
They are also considering a civil claim against Mrs Mujinga’s employer, Govia Thameslink Railway, he added.
BTP said it had to consider the “safety and security” of the person involved, as well as the Data Protection Act which restricts the sharing of personal data gathered as part of a criminal investigation.
A BTP spokesman said: “Consequently and as per national policing guidelines, we would only release someone’s name in the public domain if and when criminal charges have been brought against them.
“In this case following consideration of the evidence, interview under caution and subsequent review by the Crown Prosecution Service, no further action was taken against them.”
The force said it is “not within the remit” of the police to assist the public in its pursuit of “civil remedies”.
Members of Mrs Mujinga’s family, including her husband Lusamba, attended a vigil outside Victoria on Monday.
Sonali Bhattacharyya, a volunteer with the Justice for Belly campaign group, said campaigners were calling for an inquest into her death and a public inquiry to determine if GTR was culpable.
She said: “We’re here today on the first anniversary of Belly Mujinga’s death, united in anger and grief.
“A year on, and her family still have no answers. They still wait for justice.”
Further demonstrations took place outside GTR railways stations in Harlington, Brighton and Bedford.
Barry James, a Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) member, attended the Harlington vigil and said those demonstrating felt “anger, sadness, and frustration”.
“We need to put an end to the reckless and wholly unnecessary endangerment of Transport and other frontline workers during this pandemic and make sure companies such as GTR are open and consistent about their handling of tragic deaths such as Belly’s,” he said.
In Brighton, Connor Moylett, an education officer at Sussex students’ union, joined fellow students, campaigners and trade unionists in holding banners and laying flowers for Mrs Mujinga.
“GTR may think that we have forgotten how their callous disregard workers safety put Belly in harms way,” he added.
“We’ll keep coming back until Belly’s family get justice.”
Detectives investigating the death found there was insufficient evidence of spitting or another action that could lead to infection and concluded Mrs Mujinga’s death did not occur because of that incident.
A coroner is deciding whether to hold an inquest.
Mrs Mujinga graduated with a degree in journalism and became the first female sports journalist in her home country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mr Davies told reporters.
She left the African country for “security reasons”, he said, and settled in the UK before marrying her husband and giving birth to their daughter Ingrid, who is now 12.
Mrs Mujinga was working as a sales clerk at the time of the confrontation on the station concourse on March 21 and died on April 5 after contracting Covid-19. Mr Davies said the suspect was a white man.
BTP asked the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to review the evidence and look into whether there were any further lines of inquiry, but prosecutors ruled out homicide charges.
CCTV footage of the interaction, which lasted around 15 seconds, was said to not show any conclusive evidence a criminal offence took place, while results from a Covid-19 test on March 25 confirmed the suspect had not been infected with the virus.
DNA evidence from Mrs Mujinga’s clothing was inconclusive, while witness accounts did not provide a consistent enough picture to bring charges, according to the CPS.
Speaking through a translator, Mrs Mujinga’s husband told reporters on Monday that his late wife was a “very good person, a wonderful wife at home and a very good mother”.
He said she was “terribly missed” and he wanted “justice to be done” so he and his daughter can “have peace”.
BRITISH JUSTICE FOR ALL TO SEE!!! IFTHE SUSPECT ALLEGEDLY COUGHED AND SPAT AT MRS MUJINGA, WHY WAS HE NOT PROSECUTED? WHAT ABOUT CCTV? SURELY, THAT WOULD HAVE PROVIDED MORE THAN ENOUGH EVIDENCE FOR PROSECUTION? TOTAL RUBBISH!!!