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Another four men involved in the death of 39 Vietnamese migrants in UK container on trial

13:34 | 08/10/2020

Another four members of an alleged people-smuggling gang stood trial on Wednesday accused of being responsible for the deaths of 39 Vietnamese men, women and boys found suffocated in a stifling, airtight shipping container near London last year.

four defendants involved in uk truck tragedy sentenced to varying prison Four defendants involved in UK truck tragedy sentenced to varying prison
british ambassador to vietnam hopes families of 39 victims feel comfort British Ambassador to Vietnam hopes families of 39 victims feel comfort
vietnam to soon bring 39 found in uk truck back home Vietnam to soon bring 39 found in UK truck back home
another four men involved in the death of 39 vietnamese migrants in uk container on trial
Police move the lorry container where bodies were discovered, in Grays, Essex, Britain October 23, 2019. (Photo: Reuters)

As reported by Reuters, on Wednesday, another four men accused of being part of the people-smuggling ring went on trial at London’s Old Bailey court.

British-Romanian dual national Gheorghe Nica, 43, and Eamonn Harrison, 23, from Northern Ireland, deny manslaughter, while Harrison, Christopher Kennedy, 24, and Valentin Calota, 37, deny conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Nica admitted that offense earlier on Wednesday but denies any involvement in the fatal incident.

Earlier an Irish haulage boss, Ronan Hughes, 41, and Maurice Robinson, 26, from Northern Ireland, the driver of the truck, have already pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

The Vietnamese migrants’ journey began in northern Europe on Oct. 22 when the container was driven by Harrison to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge where it was loaded onto a cargo ship for England, Emlyn Jones said.

Shortly after midnight on Oct. 23 at the English port of Purfleet, it was picked up by Robinson. He stopped almost immediately after being sent a message by his boss which said "Give them air quickly, but don't let them out".

What he found must haunt him still,” Emlyn Jones told the court. “For the 39 men and women inside, that trailer had become their tomb.

The prosecutor said there were huge sums to be made from people smuggling, with people paying upwards of 10,000 pounds ($12,887.00) to cross the English Channel in the back of a truck.

He said the gang had successfully brought in truckloads of migrants previously, with Nica organising their dispersal and Calota one of their drivers. In May 2018, Harrison was stopped at Coquelles in northern France with 18 Vietnamese nationals hidden in his truck. He was given a fine, but never paid it.

On this occasion, however, Emlyn Jones said something “went dreadfully wrong”. Truck driver Kennedy, who was not involved in the fatal trip, texted a friend on the morning the bodies were found, saying: “Must have been too many and run out of air”.

another four men involved in the death of 39 vietnamese migrants in uk container on trial
The tragic accident occurred in November last year (Photo: SGGP English Edition)

The victims, nine of whom were teenagers and two aged just 15, were discovered last October in a container at the back of a truck on an industrial estate in Grays, about 20 miles (32 km) east of the British capital - a shocking incident which shone a light on global people smuggling.

Prosecutor William Emlyn Jones said the dead had been sealed inside a refrigeration unit, which was not turned on, in pitch black for at least 12 hours as the temperature rose to an unbearable 38.5 Celsius (101.3 F).

Last month, a court in Vietnam sentenced four Vietnamese people to between 2-1/2 and 7-1/2 years in prison for their role in the deaths. Police said the defendants had arranged for one of the women to travel illegally to France and then to Britain for $22,000.

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