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First Anniversary of Belly Mujinga's Death - Union Redoubles Justice Calls 

5 April 2021

TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, has said his entire union will be thinking of Belly Mujinga today (5 April) exactly one year since the transport worker died as a result of Covid-19. The union is calling for people to take a minute to think of Belly and other front-line workers who have died of Covid-19 since the pandemic began.

TSSA has strongly backed calls for a coroner’s inquest into Belly’s death, with Cortes saying that there “must be justice for Belly” - for the sake of her family and all transport workers. 

North London Coroner – Andrew Walker – is currently deciding whether to hold an inquest into the death of the 47-year-old who was a TSSA member. 

Belly died on 5 April 2020 just two weeks after it was reported she was coughed on by a customer at London's Victoria station (21 March). A BBC Panorama investigation subsequently raised serious questions about the inquiries into her death carried out by her employer, GTR (Govia Thameslink Railway) and the police. 

Commenting, union boss Cortes said: “Today marks a year since we lost Belly and our whole TSSA Family will be thinking of her and her own family today. We are asking people to take a minute out of their day to remember Belly Mujinga and to think of all the front-line workers who have died from Coronavirus during the pandemic. 

“There must be justice for Belly and our union will go on demanding that. This is vitally important, not just for Belly’s family but for all transport workers who have done so much to keep our country moving during this deadly pandemic. 

“There really must be a coroner’s inquest into her death so that all the outstanding questions about this case can be answered. Doing so will help bring peace to Belly’s family as well as providing lessons about how we can avoid this kind of thing happening in future. 

“Belly’s death touched our entire union and far beyond. Public scrutiny is now needed to fully illuminate this tragic case. As things stand too many gaps and glaring omissions remain – as highlighted by a number of experts in the Panorama documentary. 

“These questions are as pressing today as they were a year ago. One thing is for sure - Belly will not be forgotten and our union will never give up the fight on her behalf.”  

 

*Manuel Cortes has written to the Coroner calling for an inquest and also to Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.  

https://www.tssa.org.uk/en/whats-new/news/index.cfm/tssa-backs-calls-for-vital-belly-mujinga-inquest  

https://www.tssa.org.uk/en/whats-new/news/index.cfm/tssa-writes-to-boris-johnson-backing-inquest-calls-into-belly-mujinga-death 

 The full text of the letter to the Coroner can be found here - 

Andrew Walker 

Coroner 

North London Coroner’s Court 

29 Wood St 

Barnet EN5 4BE 

8th March 2021 

Dear Mr Walker 

I’m writing to call for an inquest into the death of our member, Belly Mujinga, as the first anniversary of the incident at Victora station approaches (21st March 2020) and in the light of the BBC Panorama investigation (12th October 2020), ‘Belly Mujinga: Searching for the Truth’. 

As our union has consistently pointed out - a number of important questions remain unanswered about Belly Mujinga’s death. Also highlighted by the programme these relate to the alleged coughing incident at Victoria station involving a man who, it was reported at the time, had been acting in an agitated and aggressive manner. 

You will be aware how deeply her tragic death from Covid-19 touched the nation; she was a front-line transport worker with a young daughter who died so early in the pandemic, just two weeks after the incident at Victoria. An inquest would allow proper public scrutiny of the events which led to Belly's death, as well as being of considerable material benefit to her relatives. 

As you are probably aware there has been a number of investigations into Belly's death. However, none have been open to public scrutiny, thus denying her family the closure they need. Our union called for an inquest at the time Belly died and we have no hesitation in repeating this call to you formally today, given the pressing need to illuminate the facts of this case. 

An inquest would also give a clear signal to transport workers and many others on the front-line during this pandemic that their lives really do matter. Formal inquest proceedings are also likely to help prevent similar cases arising in future. 

In short - it’s now vital we have an inquest into Belly’s death, to establish the facts which remain, in Panorama’s words, “bitterly contested”. 

As things stand there are simply too many gaps and glaring omissions - as highlighted by a range of expert doctors, scientists and lawyers interviewed in the documentary. 

Questions I have raised with the Prime Minister, and which require further examination, are - 

*Has the spitting allegation been properly and fully examined? Belly’s family claim she told them she had been spat at, and a police officer is quoted in the BBC film saying “we are in no doubt something has happened there.” 

*When Belly’s employer, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) learned of the incident how did the company react to protect Belly and other staff? 

*Why was Belly allowed to work on the station concourse given she had an underlying serious medical condition (sarcoidosis) which affected her breathing? 

*Why did it take a phone call from one of Belly’s doctors before she was stood down from work? 

*Why did GTR produce two different versions of its internal investigation findings – with only one showing that Belly’s condition had led to throat surgery and required regular medical check-ups? 

*When GTR began their own investigation why did the company not call in the police? 

*Why was it seven weeks after the incident before British Transport Police (BTP) were alerted? 

*Why hasn’t the footage of the incident been released? 

*How can police be sure the 57 year-old man interviewed about the incident did not have, or had not had, the virus given that the negative antibody test he’d had at that time may have been unreliable? 

NB: This point is highlighted in the BBC programme by both a Professor of Microbiology and a Professor of Clinical Immunology. Indeed, Professor Jon Deeks, Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Birmingham, tells the BBC “the police have made a mistake here with the interpretation of that evidence.” 

*Panorama also highlighted conflicting reports about whether the man told Belly and her colleague, Motolani Sunmola, that he “had the virus.” 

As Martin Forde QC told the programme: "I feel there are sufficient doubts and conflicts around the facts of this case to justify an investigation." 

Please act without delay, and in the national interest, by holding an inquest into the death of Belly Mujinga. 

Yours sincerely 

Manuel Cortes 

TSSA General Secretary 

  

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