While the Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic has brought out the best in some people, who have been helping the vulnerable and disadvantaged in society, it has unfortunately brought out the worst in others.
At 11:30 on Thursday 22 May, a man approached gate line staff at the Mile End London underground station and demanded they open the gate as he didn’t have a ticket for the barriers. Staff asked him to step back to maintain a safe social distance, but he became very aggressive and made threats of violence, including that he would break their noses.
He then swore at an older female customer who intervened and threatened to spit in her face and at staff. He turned and spat a huge spray of saliva in the face of the female customer. British Transport Police (BTP) were called and spit samples were taken from female customer’s face and arms. It is not clear whether the assailant had coronavirus.
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.”
British Transport Police (BTP) issued a statement: “”Officers were called to Mile End Underground station at 11.26am 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.” BTP is appealing for witnesses.