Essex lorry deaths: Two men found guilty of manslaughter after 39 died in trailer | UK | News (Reports)

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The 39 Vietnamese migrants, aged between 15 and 44, were found dead in the back of a trailer which was parked at an industrial estate in Grays in October 2019. The victims were 28 men, eight women and three children. They suffocated to death inside the sealed refrigerated container as it was shipped from Zeebrugge in Belgium to the town of Purfleet in Essex.

Temperatures in the unit had reached up to 38.5C (101F) and they were locked inside for at least 12 hours.

The court heard how the gang behind the illegal shipment were motivated by greed as they pursued profits of more than £1 million in that October month alone.

Following a 10-week trial at the Old Bailey, ringleader Gheorghe Nica, 43, from Basildon, and lorry driver Eamonn Harrison, 24, from County Down, were found guilty of 39 counts of manslaughter.

They were also convicted of their part in the people-smuggling operation with lorry driver Christopher Kennedy, 24, from County Armagh, and Valentin Calota, 38, from Birmingham.

The verdicts bring the total number of people convicted in Britain to eight, including haulier boss Ronan Hughes, 41, of Armagh, and 26-year-old lorry driver Maurice Robinson, of Craigavon, who admitted manslaughter.

Prosecutors are considering charges against a further three people.

The Old Bailey also heard how the gang offered a “VIP” service to Vietnamese migrants, who gathered in Belgium and France.

They charged about £13,000 per person to transport migrants in a trailer via the Channel Tunnel or by boat to Essex.

Detective Chief Inspector Daniel Stoten, of Essex Police, said: “You would not transport animals in that way but they were quite happy to do that and put them at significant risk.”

Kelly Matthews, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Thirty-nine vulnerable people desperate for a new life put their trust in an unscrupulous network of people smugglers.

“Nothing can bring back the lives lost on that day or the loss caused by the horrible, unlawful and dangerous actions of these defendants.

“But we hope these convictions bring some measure of solace to the families in the knowledge that justice has been done.”

This is a developing news story, more to follow.

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