Tube staff spat at by man demanding they open gate because he did not have a ticket

Gareth Davies
TfL worker Noureddine Aouf, who is responsible for spraying anti viral solution Zoono-71 inside Victoria Line tube trains, at the London Underground Northumberland Park Depot in Tottenham - PA
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

Union leaders have condemned a "disgusting and frightening" spitting incident at a Tube station.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) said a man approached staff at the Mile End London underground station on Thursday and demanded they open the gate as he did not have a ticket for the barriers.

Staff asked him to step back so they could safely social distance, but he became aggressive and swore at an older female customer who intervened, and spat at her, said the union.

British Transport Police (BTP) were called and spit samples were taken from female customer's face and arms, and it is not clear whether the assailant had coronavirus, said the TSSA.

The incident follows the death of ticket office worker Belly Mujinga from coronavirus following an incident at London Victoria station.

Lorraine Ward, TSSA official for London Underground, said: "We strongly condemn this disgusting and frightening incident.

"Spitting has always been considered an assault, but following the tragic story of Belly Mujinga and heightened fears over the highly contagious coronavirus, more must be done to prevent such horrendous acts of violence against transport workers and passengers.

"Our union is pleased the BTP were on the scene straight away at Mile End and we hope that a prosecution can be secured.

"We're redoubling our call for protective visors to be made available to all frontline transport workers across the rail, Tube and bus networks as they provide a greater degree of protection from such acts."

Coronavirus is transmittable by coughing, so spitting would be even more likely to spread the disease.

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TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes added: "Spitting at someone is always disgusting, but during the current coronavirus pandemic it's also dangerous."

A BTP spokesman said: "Officers were called to Mile End Underground station at 11.26 yesterday morning (21/05) following reports of a man behaving aggressively and threatening staff.

"A female customer tried to intervene, and the man spat at her before leaving the station.

"Officers quickly attended and conducted a full search of the local area, however the man was not found.

"Inquiries are currently ongoing and anyone with information is asked to contact BTP by texting 61016 or calling 0800 40 50 40 quoting reference 127 of 21/05/20.

"Alternatively you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111."

Siwan Hayward, director of compliance, policing and on-street services at Transport for London, said: "We are shocked to hear of this disgusting incident at Mile End station. Spitting is a vile form of assault at any time, leaving a lasting impact on victims.

"That anyone could consider spitting at someone else - especially during this national health emergency - is absolutely appalling.

"We condemn all forms of violence and abuse on our network. We're working closely with the British Transport Police to identify the perpetrator as this incident is urgently investigated.

"Safety is our absolute priority and we will continue doing all that we can to protect our staff and customers."

Taxi driver dies with Covid-19 after being spat at by fare-dodger

A taxi driver died with coronavirus after being spat at by a fare-dodger who claimed to have the disease, a family friend has said.

Trevor Belle, 61, died in the Royal London Hospital on April 18, having tested positive for Covid-19.

Several weeks earlier, the east Londoner had been spat at by a passenger who owed him £9, according to his friend Damian Briggs.

After the incident in Stratford on March 22, Mr Belle began to feel unwell with symptoms of coronavirus, Mr Briggs explained: "A few days later he got rushed into hospital, he spent three weeks battling it and unfortunately didn't make it to the end."

The new grandfather died three days after his 61st birthday, and his friend added: "It's devastating that he's caught it doing his job."

After his death, Mr Belle's blood was donated to research into the effects of Covid-19 in people from BAME communities, Mr Briggs said, as he paid tribute to his "die-hard Arsenal supporter" friend.

He described them as "not blood brothers, but we are brothers".

He told the PA news agency: "He loves the game, he loves Arsenal, he loves supporting to see kids do really well in the game.

"He did a lot of volunteering stuff."

A GoFundMe page for Mr Belle has now raised £6,000 - double its target - to cover the costs of a funeral and "celebration of his life".

Mr Briggs added: "Best way I can describe Trev is just a jovial person who, as serious as life is, would always find a way to get a smile on your face so you can take your mind off the problem.

"It was very rare you saw something that bothered this guy.

"No matter how bad it was, he always found a way to have a laugh and chuckle."

The fundraising page can be found here.