Lorry driver admits manslaughter of 39 found dead in container

Police activity at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex, after 39 bodies were found inside

Police activity at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex, after 39 bodies were found inside a lorry container on the industrial estate Picture: AARON CHOWN/PA WIRE - Credit: PA

A lorry driver has admitted the manslaughter of 39 Vietnamese nationals found dead in the back of a refrigerated truck in Essex.

The bodies of the eight females and 31 males were discovered at an industrial estate in Grays shortly after a container arrived on a ferry from Zeebrugge in the early hours of October 23.

Maurice Robinson, 25, of Craigavon, Northern Ireland, who appeared virtually at the Old Bailey on Wednesday afternoon, had previously admitted conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property at the same court in November.

An investigation into an alleged people-smuggling ring led to charges against five men, including Robinson, who admitted 39 counts of manslaughter.

The prosecution asked for three weeks to consider going ahead with a trial on a further charge of transferring criminal property, denied by Robinson, who appeared before Mr Justice Sweeney alongside four co-defendants.

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British Romanian Gheorghe Nica, 43, of Mimosa Close, in Langdon Hills, Essex, denied 39 counts of manslaughter and one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Romanian national Alexandru-Ovidiu Hanga, 27, of Hobart Road, in Tilbury, denied conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

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Christopher Kennedy, 23, of Corkley Road, in Darkley, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, has previously denied conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

The fifth defendant, Valentin Calota, 37, of Cossington Road, in Birmingham, was not asked to enter a plea to conspiring to assist unlawful immigration.

Prosecutor William Emlyn Jones QC said a human trafficking conspiracy charge in relation to Kennedy and Robinson was being dropped by the Crown.

Robinson’s co-defendants now face trial at the Old Bailey, lasting up to eight weeks, from October 5.

Eamonn Harrison, 22, of Mayobridge, Northern Ireland, has been granted leave to appeal his extradition to the UK to face 39 charges of manslaughter and a charge of conspiracy to traffic people, as well as conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

A further hearing will be held in Dublin on Thursday, May 7.

Essex Police said it continued to work with the prosecution service, international law enforcement, including the National Crime Agency, and government offices in the UK and Vietnam.

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