Police and ambulance teams were called to the site of a horrific discovery at an industrial park in Essex, England on Wednesday October 23, 2019. A driver opened the container of his lorry and discovered the dead bodies of 38 adults and 1 teenager.
The lorry driver has been identified as Mo Robinson (25). Robinson has been arrested on suspicion of murder and police are currently trying to establish if he knew about the people in the lorry or if he had no idea what he was carrying.
Initially police said the lorry had entered the UK via Holyhead in north Wales. They later backtracked and said the trailer – the rear section of the vehicle, containing the bodies – travelled from Zeebrugge, Belgium into Purfleet, Essex, and docked in the Thurrock area shortly after 12.30am.
This image from The Guardian shows the route of the container:
It is the worst incident of its kind in the UK since the bodies of 58 Chinese people were found in a container in Dover, Kent, in 2000.
British home secretary, Priti Patel, said Home Office immigration officials were working closely with the police to establish what had happened.
Patel appeared before the home affairs select committee on Wednesday afternoon and signalled that she was willing to consider tougher sentences for human traffickers and people smugglers.
The independent MP John Woodcock asked if Patel would commit to reviewing sentencing guidelines for human trafficking.
She replied: “What we have seen basically through the actions of these traffickers is the worst of humanity and it is right that we use our law enforcement and all aspects of the law through existing legislation to make sure that justice is served and that the perpetrators are prosecuted.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “I am receiving regular updates and the Home Office will work closely with Essex police as we establish exactly what has happened.”
Update April 2020- https://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/lorry-driver-maurice-robinson-guilty-essex-lorry-deaths-a4410366.html
Lorry driver Maurice Robinson has admitted the manslaughter of 39 people who were found dead in a refrigerated trailer in Essex.
The 25-year-old from Northern Ireland pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey on Wednesday…
…During the hearing, he admitted 39 counts of manslaughter on or before October 24 last year. He denied a further charge of transferring criminal property.
He had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property.
- British Romanian Gheorghe Nica, 43, of Langdon Hills in Essex, denied 39 counts of manslaughter. He also denied one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration between May 1, 2018 and October 24, 2019.
- Romanian national Alexandru-Ovidiu Hanga, 27, of Tilbury, Essex, denied a charge of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
- Christopher Kennedy, 23, of Darkley in Co Armagh, has previously denied conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration
- Valentin Calota, 37, from Birmingham, was not asked to enter a plea to the charge of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration.
A haulier from Northern Ireland has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 39 people found dead in the trailer of a lorry in Essex.
Ronan Hughes, 40, of Co Armagh, admitted the charge on Friday at the Old Bailey. He was one of several men accused of being part of a people-smuggling ring linked to the deaths last October.
Essex lorry deaths: Migrant ‘paid £13k for ‘VIP’ smuggling trip’
Essex lorry deaths: Woman in France ‘saw migrants get in lorry’
A lorry driver accused over the deaths of 39 migrants has told a court he was “naive and gullible”.
Eamonn Harrison dropped off a trailer containing Vietnamese migrants at a Belgian port and they were found dead the next day in Essex, jurors heard.
Giving evidence at the Old Bailey, Mr Harrison told jurors: “I did not know I was involved in people smuggling.”
Update 24th November 2020-
Christopher Kennedy allegedly collected trailers of people from Purfleet, Essex, on 11 and 18 October last year.
On October 23, another driver who collected a trailer which had travelled the same route found the 39 bodies.
Mr Kennedy denies being involved in a people-smuggling plot.
The 24-year-old, of Keady in County Armagh, told the Old Bailey his boss Caolan Gormley had asked him to lift cigarettes “for a bit of extra cash”.
He said Mr Gormley told him to get a cheap phone “for picking up a load of cigarettes”.