An inquest will held into the death of Belly Mujinga, the railway worker who died with Covid-19 after an alleged incident where she was coughed on and spat at by a customer.
Mujinga, 47, died last April, two weeks after the alleged incident on the concourse at London’s Victoria station where she worked as a sales clerk for Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR).
The senior coroner Andrew Walker has decided there needs to be an inquest into Mujinga’s death, which her family has campaigned for, as her death may have been “unnatural”.
He said there were concerns about the provision of PPE and her deployment at Victoria. Two other employees also became unwell while working at the station, one of whom died from a Covid-19 infection, Walker told a hearing at north London coroner’s court.
British Transport Police investigated Mujinga’s death but concluded there was not enough evidence. After a public outcry over her death, which raised serious questions about the safety of frontline workers during the pandemic, the CPS reviewed the evidence and possible lines of inquiry several months later, before concluding there was insufficient evidence and no charges were brought.
Walker said there was reason to suspect the death was “unnatural” and may have involved “human error”. He said the incident took place at a time when there was a “recognised increased risk for frontline workers over PPE” and therefore concerns about its provision by her employer GTR.
Mujinga’s union, the Transport Salaried Staff Association (TSSA), described the decision as “a step forward in the fight for justice”. Manuel Cortes, the TSSA general secretary, said in a statement: “Belly’s death touched the nation and was keenly felt by so many transport workers who have bravely been on the front line throughout this terrible pandemic.
“We simply must know what happened and the lessons which can be learned. For all these reasons, and to bring peace to Belly’s family, without doubt it’s in the public interest to have an inquest.”
Lawrence Davies, a solicitor for the Mujinga family, said they welcomed the coroner’s decision to hold an inquest: “It will address the health and safety problems (lack of PPE) faced by frontline workers during the Covid pandemic, and particularly those with underlying health issues, as well as the racism and harassment that BAME frontline workers face at work, and it will finally allow us to call to account the intemperate white male who the family allege assaulted Belly and her colleague, Motolani, twice on the concourse of Victoria Station on 21 March 2020.”
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, has previously told the family’s lawyers he would await the coroner’s decision before answering calls for a public inquiry.
Walker said a date for the inquest would be issued in due course.