A widower was brought to tears as vigils were held across the country to mark the first anniversary of his railway worker wife’s death as the coronavirus crisis was worsening.
Belly Mujinga, 47, died with Covid-19 following claims she had been spat and coughed on by a customer at London’s busy Victoria station.
A year on, her heartbroken husband Lusamba Katalay wiped away tears as he and others gathered outside the station to call for “justice” and for police to disclose the suspect’s name.
British Transport Police (BTP) interviewed a 57-year-old man over the incident but said there was not enough evidence that a crime had taken place. A coroner is now deciding whether to hold an inquest into her death.
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The mum, who is survived by her 11-year-old daughter Ingrid, was admitted to Barnet Hospital in north-west London and put on a ventilator, but died on April 5, 2020, her trade union, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), said.
Mrs Mujinga’s widower and about a dozen others stood outside Victoria station and held banners reading “Justice for Belly Mujinga”.
Events were also held at Brighton and Bedford stations at 11am, with a minute’s silence at 11.22am.
Speaking through a translator, Mrs Mujinga’s husband told reporters on Monday that his late wife was a “very good person, a wonderful wife at home and a very good mother”.
He said she was “terribly missed” and he wanted “justice to be done” so he and his daughter can “have peace”.
A lawyer for Mrs Mujinga’s family, Lawrence Davies, said the force had refused to disclose the suspect’s name, preventing them from pursuing a private prosecution and further civil claims.
Speaking on the anniversary of the university graduate’s death on Monday, Mr Davies said: “We are pushing for two things, an inquest and the name of the man who (allegedly) assaulted her.
“But the BTP won’t give the name. They have stonewalled me since September, so the family has complained to the IOPC (Independent Office for Police Conduct).”
Mr Davies said the family was seeking the suspect’s name so they could consider suing him for harassment and assault.
They are also considering a civil claim against Mrs Mujinga’s employer, Govia Thameslink Railway, he added.
Sonali Bhattacharyya, a volunteer with the Justice for Belly campaign group, said campaigners were calling for an inquest into her death and a public inquiry to determine if GTR was culpable.
She said: “We’re here today on the first anniversary of Belly Mujinga’s death, united in anger and grief.
“A year on, and her family still have no answers. They still wait for justice.”
Detectives investigating the death found there was insufficient evidence of spitting or another action that could lead to infection and concluded Mrs Mujinga’s death did not occur because of that incident.
A coroner is deciding whether to hold an inquest.
Mrs Mujinga graduated with a degree in journalism and became the first female sports journalist in her home country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mr Davies told reporters.
She left the African country for “security reasons”, he said, and settled in the UK before marrying her husband and giving birth to their daughter Ingrid, who is now 12.
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. Mr Davies said the suspect was a white man.
BTP asked the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to review the evidence and look into whether there were any further lines of inquiry, but prosecutors ruled out homicide charges.
CCTV footage of the interaction, which lasted around 15 seconds, was said to not show any conclusive evidence a criminal offence took place, while results from a Covid-19 test on March 25 confirmed the suspect had not been infected with the virus.
DNA evidence from Mrs Mujinga’s clothing was inconclusive, while witness accounts did not provide a consistent enough picture to bring charges, according to the CPS.
Speaking before the vigils, Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA, said: “We are asking people to take a minute out of their day to remember Belly Mujinga and to think of all the frontline 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.”