The ticket officer who fell fatally ill with Covid-19 after a rail passenger spat in her face, called her colleague in the final hours before her death and gasped: ‘Pray for me.’
Dozens of friends and colleagues of Belly Mujinga are now demanding to know why bosses at London’s Victoria Station apparently failed to report the shocking incident to police immediately.
Detectives are expected to be able to identify the suspect by the ticket he bought minutes after spitting at the mother of one and her colleague.
Spitting on someone deliberately is common assault and can lead to a jail term of six months in the most serious cases, such as when it is racially motivated.
Detectives are expected to be able to identify the suspect by the ticket he bought minutes after spitting at a ticket officer who later died of coronavirus. Pictured: Belly Mujinga with her husband Lusamba Katalay and her 11-year-old daughter Ingrid
Some believe police should charge the man with murder over the attack on March 22 –Mothering Sunday – when he is caught. But that would be unlikely as police would be unable to prove conclusively that Mrs Mujinga had caught the virus from the spitter.
Friends and colleagues also claim that the suspect could easily have been caught – had it not taken almost six weeks to start the investigation.
Last night, a grief-stricken friend of Mrs Mujinga told The Mail on Sunday: ‘If the police had been called, they would have come straight away, and could have arrested the man inside the station.
Then, they had a one in ten chance of catching him. Now it’s more like one in a thousand.’
Some believe police should charge the man with murder over the attack on March 22 –Mothering Sunday – when he is caught. But that would be unlikely as police would be unable to prove conclusively that Mrs Mujinga had caught the virus from the spitter
Both female ticket officers fell ill with coronavirus shortly after being spat at on the station concourse. Although her colleague recovered, Mrs Mujinga, who had an underlying respiratory condition, died on April 5.
As detectives hurriedly obtained CCTV footage of the suspect last week, friends of the 47-year-old Congolese-born mother criticised what they claim was an appalling lapse by her supervisor in failing to alert the authorities.
It has meant that, almost two months after the incident, the suspect, described as a smartly dressed white British middle-aged male, remains at large.
A petition calling for justice has more than 220,000 signatures while nearly £40,000 has been raised for her devastated family.
Activists took to social media last week demanding to know why the British Transport Police (BTP) had not released CCTV footage of the suspect, but The Mail on Sunday understands officers are hoping to track him down by tracing a ticket he bought at the station.
Both female ticket officers fell ill with coronavirus shortly after being spat at on the station concourse. Although her colleague recovered, Mrs Mujinga, who had an underlying respiratory condition, died on April 5
Questions have also been raised over why Mrs Mujinga was expected to work in a public-facing role despite her employer being aware of her underlying health condition which left her at greater risk from Covid-19.
Mrs Mujinga, who was employed by Govia Thameslink, left her family’s flat in Hendon, North-West London, at dawn on March 22 to arrive in time for her 6am shift.
While her husband, Lusamba Katalay, 60, a warehouse worker, and her daughter Ingrid, 11, slept, Mrs Mujinga read the Mother’s Day card she had left out for her. It read: ‘I hope to be a mother like you. Strong, loving, devoted, inspiring, wonderful and cool.’
Around mid-morning, Mrs Mujinga and a female colleague, also of African origin, were on duty on the station concourse, which was deserted because of the lockdown.
The pair were standing near the ticket office when a man, dressed casually in jacket and trousers, approached them.
A staff member nearby who saw the man approach said he initially asked them politely: ‘What are you doing here?’ ‘The women replied: “We’re here to help”,’ the witness said. ‘They thought he was feeling sorry for them as they should be behind the ticket counter.’
It was then that the man – who appeared to be in his mid to late 40s – became aggressive. ‘The second time, he became harsh and very unfriendly, saying, “What you doing here, what you doing here?” Then he said, “I have the virus”.’
The witness then described how the man leaned closer to the two women and began to spit and cough at them. ‘The women shouted, “Get away, get away” at him,’ the witness said. ‘They were telling him to back off.’
The suspect then casually walked towards the ticket counter, where he bought a ticket. The women appealed to the duty supervisor to alert police, but lost sight of him.
Questions have been raised over why the mother – who leaves behind an 11-year-old daughter – was working in a public-facing role despite GTR being aware of her underlying condition
The witness said she did not see any saliva fall on both women, but Mrs Mujinga immediately went to the bathroom to wash her face.
Another colleague – who was familiar with the incident – claimed that when the attack was reported to their female supervisor she did not call the police.
The colleague, who did not want to be named, said: ‘It’s not the police’s fault, as we have a good relationship with them. It’s the supervisor’s fault, that’s why no one has been caught.’
Two days afterwards, Mrs Mujinga’s GP called to ask her to isolate at home because a thyroid operation she had undergone three years earlier made her vulnerable to coronavirus. The doctor was not informed of the spitting incident.
A week after the attack, on March 29, Mrs Mujinga began to complain of headaches, chest pains and a fever. Two days later, she was taken to Barnet Hospital as a suspected Covid-19 patient. Five days after that, she died in hospital.
Her Govia Thameslink colleague spoke to Mrs Mujinga on the telephone the day before her death: ‘She just told me to pray for her. Those were her last words to me.’
Agnes Ntumba, a cousin and best friend of Mrs Mujinga, tearfully recalled their last phone call.
‘She just said, “If I am not here any more, you need to look after my daughter”. I said, “Don’t give up, you’ll get better”. After that, I could not get her on the phone.’
She said that while no one can be certain Mrs Mujinga contracted the virus as a result of the incident, she believed it had led to her death. ‘She put it in her mind that it was the spit,’ Ms Ntumba said. ‘But we don’t know.’
BTP launched their investigation into Mrs Mujinga’s death last Monday, only after being informed of the attack by her union, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association.
Angie Doll, Managing Director at Govia Thameslink, said in a statement: ‘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 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.’