Coroner apologises to family over delays to inquest for Belly Mujinga

Coroner apologises to family over the delays to inquest for railway worker, 47, who died of Covid after being spat on at London’s Victoria station during first lockdown

  • Belly Mujinga, 47, died on April 5 2020 with coronavirus after she was spat on
  • British Transport Police interviewed man but said there wasn’t enough evidence 
  • Andrew Walker, a London coroner, apologised for the delays in her inquest today 

A coroner has apologised to the family of railway station worker Belly Mujinga for the length of time it has taken for her inquest to be held.

Andrew Walker, a north London coroner, made the remark at the end of another administrative hearing ahead of the inquest, a date for which has not yet been set.

Mrs Mujinga, 47, died on April 5 2020 with coronavirus after she was reportedly coughed on and spat at days earlier by a customer at London’s Victoria station.

Mr Walker told the coroner’s court in High Barnet on Friday afternoon: ‘My deepest sympathies to the family, and my apologies for the delay in this matter.’

He added: ‘It will progress, and it will progress swiftly.’

British Transport Police interviewed a 57-year-old man over the incident but said there was not enough evidence that a crime had taken place.

Belly Mujinga, pictured with her husband Lusamba Katalay, who died with Covid-19 after allegedly being spat at while on duty

Mrs Mujinga, 47, died in April last year with the virus after she claimed to have been coughed on days earlier by a customer

There were two other employees who became unwell while working at the station, one who died from a Covid infection and another who became ill with Covid-19-like symptoms.

Mrs Mujinga was originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where she was the first female sports journalist to work for the national broadcaster RTNC, her family said.

She moved to the UK in 2000.

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. 

Her husband, Lusamba Gode Katalay, and daughter Ingrid were two of only 10 people permitted at her funeral due to coronavirus restrictions in place at the time.

Her death prompted an outpouring of grief and demand for answers.

Boris Johnson also raised the incident in the House of Commons, telling Prime Minister’s Questions: ‘The fact that she was abused for doing her job is utterly appalling.’

Mrs Mujinga was working as a sales clerk at the time of the confrontation on the London Victoria concourse (file image)

A further pre-inquest review will be held on January 25, at which an expert is expected to be assigned to investigate the possible causes of Mrs Mujinga’s Covid infection.

Mr Walker previously told a preliminary hearing at Barnet Coroner’s Court that ‘causation’ would be a starting point in helping to plot what areas may need to be covered at the inquest into Mrs Mujinga’s death.

The North London coroner said that an expert would be needed to deal with the possible causes of the Covid infection that led to Mrs Mujinga’s death in the first phase of his ‘step-by-step’ approach to setting up the inquest.

The expert, could be a specialist in respiratory medicine, public health or an area that straddles both disciplines.

The amount of traffic and passengers going through the station could be an area that is useful for the hearing, and the court would seek to find any CCTV footage of the scene.

Timeline of Belly Mujinga’s death and the police investigation 

  • March 21, 2020: Belly Mujinga is allegedly spat at by a customer at London Victoria train station who claims to have ‘the virus’
  • March 21: Her colleague Motolani Sunmola reports the incident to their employer Govia Thameslink Railway
  • March 25: The suspect is tested for Covid-19 but results confirm he had not been infected
  • April 2: Mrs Mujinga is taken to hospital after becoming unwell
  • April 5: She dies in hospital
  • April 8: The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association tells GTR about an allegation of deliberate coughing
  • May 12: The TSSA claims Mrs Mujinga has been assaulted by a man who deliberately coughed and spat at her, saying he ‘had the virus’
  • August 6: Crown Prosecution Service says insufficient evidence has emerged for it to bring charges against anyone relating to homicide, assault or public order offences
  • September 16: A report by GTR suggests the alleged attack never happened because no complaints about spitting were made at the time by staff and police also ‘concluded that no spitting incident took place’
  • October 12: A BBC documentary reveals CCTV footage which allegedly showed Mrs Mujinga running away after she was said to have been spat on by a man was deemed ‘inconclusive’ by police 
  • April 4, 2021: The family of Mrs Mujinga call for police to disclose the suspect’s name so they can sue him
  • May 7: North London coroner Andrew Walker says that there will be an inquest into her death
  • Today: The coroner says that an expert will be needed to deal with the possible causes of the Covid infection that led to Mrs Mujinga’s death

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