Individual sociopaths and corporate hypocrites

Police are questioning a 57-year-old man accused of spitting on two members of staff at London Victoria train station while shouting that he had the coronavirus. Both subsequently caught COVID-19. Belly Mujinga, a 47-year-old mother with an 11-year-old daughter, died two weeks later.

Belly started her shift at Victoria Station booking office on March 22. She and her work colleague were ordered by a supervisor on to the concourse. Witnesses testify that Belly appealed to the supervisor that it was dangerous without personal protective equipment (PPE), reminding him that she had an underlying respiratory condition.

While she was checking tickets, a well-dressed man, 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.

Belly, the mother of an 11-year-old girl, Ingrid, was admitted to Barnet general hospital and put on a ventilator but died on 5 April. A colleague who witnessed the incident said Mujinga had pleaded against working outside the protection of the ticket office without PPE.

Her employers, Govia Thameslink Railway, knew she had respiratory problems but still insisted she works on the concourse and interacts with passengers. She was even sent back on to the concourse after the spitting incident despite visibly trembling with fear.

A colleague who witnessed the incident said: “We begged not to go out. We said: ‘Our lives are in danger.'”  But, she said, they were told they had to go out.

“We were told that we are not even allowed to put on masks,” the colleague added. “Govia has behaved reckless and negligent. They have failed in their duty of care. We are treated like we are robots.”

Belly’s cousin Agnes Ntumba told reporters, “They should not have made her work on the concourse. … She shouldn’t have died in this condition. We could have prevented it, if she had more PPE or if they kept her inside instead of being on the concourse.”  

Agnes said: “She shouldn’t have been sent out without any PPE. We want justice for Belly. Her daughter doesn’t have a mother any more. They should protect those who are left.”

As a vulnerable person in the ‘at risk’ category and her condition known to her employer, there must be questions asked about why GTR didn’t stand her down from front line duties early on in this pandemic.

According to Mujinga’s union, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), Mujinga had been left extremely shaken by the incident and urged her bosses at Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) to call the police. But they did not.

The incident was only reported by Govia to police seven weeks after it occurred, effectively ensuring that vital evidence has been lost.

British Transport Police (BTP) has confirmed it was only made aware of the incident, which occurred on March 22, on May 11!

This inexcusable delay in reporting the incident certainly removes the possibility of finding any forensic evidence at the station, which would have been cleaned many times over.

Plus there seems to be a problem with CCTV evidence, given the company’s dilatory report to the police. Station CCTV is usually kept only for 14 days, unless there is a specific request by the police. But given the 7-week delay in reporting it, this cannot have happened.  In fact, BTP has said only that officers were “exploring possible CCTV opportunities”.

The shocking fact is that both before and after the spitting attack Belly had pleaded not to be sent outside, asking instead to work from the safety of the ticket office. She had explicitly reminded the supervisors that she had underlying health issues for which she was known to have taken time off previously, and she had insisted she was scared for her life.

Yet her managers refused her request and she was sent out.

The delinquent lack of care demonstrated by her employer G.T.R. was compounded by their callous delay in reporting the crime to the police.  Only after the tragic result comes the predictable faux chagrin from G.T.R. and the government, both of whom share in the responsibility for poor Belly Mujinga’s death.

Patrick Carey