50 MPs and peers back public inquiry into death of Belly Mujinga

Andrew Kersley

50 MPs and peers, including 37 from the Labour Party, have signed a joint letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of transport worker Belly Mujinga.

The letter, penned by former shadow immigration minister Bell Ribeiro-Addy, expresses concern over the handling of the case by police and employers and highlights the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on the BAME community.

Mujinga, who had an underlying respiratory condition, contracted the virus after she and a colleague were allegedly spat at while working on the concourse at Victoria Station by a customer who claimed to have the virus. She died in early April.

After a 19-day investigation by the British Transport Police, it was concluded that there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone with a crime relating to the incident. The Crown Prosecution Service backed the police decision.

The British Transport Police investigation concluded that there was no evidence of a spitting incident on March 21st and found on the basis of an antibody test that the man concerned had not contracted Covid-19.

But the new letter is calling for a public inquiry to resolve unanswered questions in the case, including why Mujinga and her colleague, who also contracted Covid after the incident, were not provided with personal protective equipment (PPE).

Govia Thameslink Railway, Mujinga’s former employer, has noted that at the time of the incident there was no guidance from government suggesting that workers should be wearing face coverings or masks.

Commenting on the new letter she has written and the campaign to have a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Mujinga’s death, Streatham MP Ribeiro-Addy said: “Belly’s family deserves answers.

“It’s clear that there are unanswered questions about the incident in question, as well as her employer’s conduct in this situation. We need to get a full understanding of what happened and why, to prevent the same thing from happening again.”

Transport union TSSA wrote to Johnson earlier this month following a BBC Panorama programme. General secretary Manuel Cortes called for an inquest into the death and urged the Prime Minister to “act without delay”.

A petition by Mujinga’s solicitors that also calls for a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding her death, as well as an official Coroner’s inquest, has reached over two million signatures at the time of writing.

Angie Doll, managing director of Southern and Gatwick Express, said: “Belly Mujinga was a much-loved and very popular member of our team at Victoria Station and we, like so many others, remain heart-broken by her loss.

“We completed and published our investigation report in August and as people know now, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service concluded there was no spitting incident. Our thoughts, as ever, remain with Belly’s family and most of all her husband and her daughter.”

Studies have shown that coronavirus is having a disproportionate impact on the Black community. In one report from the first wave of the pandemic, Black people were found to be almost twice as likely to die from Covid than white people.

Below is the full text of the letter sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Dear Prime Minister,

We write to you to call for a public inquiry into the death of Belly Mujinga.

As you will no doubt be aware, Belly and her colleague, Motolani Sunmola, both employees of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), were spat at by a customer at Victoria station on 21st March. Belly, who had an underlying health condition, subsequently contracted coronavirus and died in Barnet Hospital on the 5th of April.

It is clear that there are unanswered questions about the incident in question, as well as her employer’s conduct in this situation. We are highly concerned by reports that Belly and her colleague were sent out onto the Victoria station concourse by GTR without adequate PPE, and on the basis of bad medical advice. As a government contractor, GTR must be held to the highest standards on both workplace safety and anti-discrimination practice. We all know that whilst the coronavirus has highlighted the issue of safety at work, every year thousands suffer work-related illnesses, injuries and deaths. Safety at work is a right, not a privilege.

Belly’s death is sad evidence of a wider trend. Black people are statistically more likely to work in frontline jobs where they cannot work from home, placing them at heightened risk of contracting the virus. Government statistics have repeatedly shown how frontline workers and Black people are both at a heightened risk of dying from coronavirus during the pandemic. According to ONS data published in June, Black women are two and a half times more likely to die with COVID-19 than white women.

It is paramount that we get to the bottom of the circumstances surrounding Belly Mujinga’s death. With coronavirus cases once again spiralling out of control in the UK, we need to understand the failings of the past to protect the most vulnerable in the near future.

We, therefore, join the two million people who signed her family’s petition in calling for justice and urge the government to hold a public inquiry into the full circumstances of her death.

Yours sincerely,

Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Labour MP for Streatham

Diane Abbott MP
Hannah Bardell MP
Paula Barker MP
Apsana Begum MP
Olivia Blake MP
Baroness Christine Blower
Baroness Pauline Bryan
Dawn Butler MP
Richard Burgon MP
Ian Byrne MP
Baroness Shami Chakrabarti CBE
Sarah Champion MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Stella Creasy MP
Jon Cruddas MP
Allan Dorans MP
Dr Stephen Farry MP
Claire Hanna MP
Lord John Hendy QC
Wera Hobhouse MP
Rachel Hopkins MP
George Howarth MP
Christine Jardine MP
Kim Johnson MP
Ian Lavery MP
Clive Lewis MP
Tony Lloyd MP
Caroline Lucas MP
Siobhain McDonagh MP
John McDonnell MP
Anne McLaughlin MP
Ian Mearns MP
Navendu Mishra MP
Grahame Morris MP
Sarah Olney MP
Kate Osamor MP
Kate Osborne MP
Virendra Sharma MP
Tommy Sheppard MP
Andy Slaughter MP
Jamie Stone MP
Zarah Sultana MP
Sam Tarry MP
Alison Thewliss MP
Stephen Timms MP
Claudia Webbe MP
Dr Philippa Whitford MP
Mick Whitley MP
Nadia Whittome MP
Beth Winter MP

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