Accused tells court he was not part of plot to smuggle illegal immigrant

Ipswich Crown Court.

John Lockwood has denied helping to bring an illegal immigrant into the UK at his trial at Ipswich Crown Court - Credit: Archant

A Trimley man accused of being part of a gang which tried to smuggle an illegal immigrant into the UK in a purpose-built hidden compartment in the back of a van has denied being involved in the plot.

Giving evidence during his trial at Ipswich Crown court, John Lockwood said he had travelled to France to pick up alcohol for a  bar in Ipswich and had not known about the plan to smuggle the illegal immigrant into the UK.

He said he had seen Richard Halls, from Melton, who he had travelled to Calais with, texting on his phone while they were there but hadn’t seen him with any strangers.

Asked by his barrister Juliet Donovan if he had seen Halls and Elliott Thompson, who drove the van with the illegal immigrant hidden in a secret compartment back to the UK, load the man into the vehicle, Lockwood replied : “No."

Wayne Cleaver, prosecuting, has alleged that Lockwood arranged to meet Thompson in a hotel in Calais and had travelled back to Dover in a separate vehicle on the same ferry as the van with the illegal immigrant hidden inside.

Lockwood, 32, of Mill Close, Trimley St Martin, has denied assisting in the unlawful immigration of an Albanian national between October 14 and 17, 2019, by arranging with others for him to hide in the back of a van on a P&O ferry at Dover.

The court has heard that Richard Halls, 39, of St Andrews Place, Melton, Elliott Thompson of Ipswich Road, Stowmarket, and three other men had admitted the charge at earlier hearings.

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Lockwood told police he wasn’t part of the smuggling plan and said that when he travelled to France he didn’t know what the other people he was with were up to.

“We say he was a knowing and willing participant in a joint enterprise to evade immigration controls,” said Mr Cleaver.

The trial continues.