County Armagh lorry drivers Maurice Robinson and Christopher Kennedy are among eight men who will be sentenced over the deaths of 39 migrants in Essex last year.
Robinson, 25, from Laurelvale (main image), pleaded guilty to 39 counts of manslaughter as well as conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property.
Kennedy, from Corkley Road in Darkley, as found guilty of one count of conspiracy to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK immigration law.
The pair will be sentenced between today (Thursday) and Friday at the Old Bailey in London, alongside Eamonn Harrison, a 24-year-old lorry driver from Mayobridge, who was found guilty of 39 counts of manslaughter and guilty of one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
Ronan Hughes, 40, of Tyholland in County Monaghan, also pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of those onboard and facilitating the illegal entry of people into the UK.
They will be sentenced alongside:
– Valentin Calota, 38, of Cossingham Road in Birmingham, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK immigration law;
– Gheorghe Nica, 43, of Mimosa Close in Langdon Hills, was found guilty of 39 counts of manslaughter and guilty of one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration;
– A Tottenham man, 42-year-old Gazmir Nuzi of Barclay Road, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration;
– And 28-year-old Alexandru Hanga, of Hobart Road in Tilbury, pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
The sentencing comes following the tragic discovery of 39 unresponsive Vietnamese men, women and children in the early hours of Wednesday, October 23, 2019 by Robinson.
It resulted in the largest investigation in Essex Police’s history ensued which unravelled a network of organised criminals, which had operated in the UK and overseas.
During the investigation, it was discovered that Hughes and Nica had overseen two earlier journeys that month, on 11 and 18 October 2019, in which people had been brought into the country.
Speaking following the weeks-long trials of several of those involved, Chief Constable of Essex Police, Ben-Julian Harrington, said: “The men who were found guilty today made their money from misery.
“They knew what they were doing was wrong, but they didn’t care.
“They tried to hide what they were doing. They attempted to evade detection.
“They thought they could cover up their crimes.
“Whilst I feel immense pride for the Essex Police teams, and our partners, for this diligent investigation, none of us will stop thinking of the victims and their families. Those family members are, in most cases, halfway across the world, and their lives will never be the same again.
“We will never forget those 39 victims – men, women, and children – who were sold the lie of safe passage to our country. The force made their loved ones a promise in the Book of Condolence shortly after the incident: that we would do everything in our power to bring those responsible for that horrific journey, which ended on our shores, to justice. Essex Police has worked hard to deliver on our promise, and I hope that is of some small comfort.”
Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Daniel Stoten, added: “This story started almost eight thousand miles away.
“Every man, woman and child, some as young as 15, who died in the lorry trailer was from Vietnam.
“They may have started their journeys at different times but, ultimately, they were all following the false promise of a new life. They put their trust in people they hoped would deliver them safely to our shores. As we all now know, sadly, that’s not how their journey ended.
“Family members and friends, many of whom are still thousands of miles away from where I stand today, have suffered an unimaginable loss. I know this because my team at Essex Police have heard their stories, and carefully recorded their testimony first-hand.”
“Our thoughts are with you, today and always.”