Essex lorry deaths: How authorities missed chances to stop people-smuggling gang

Remigio Civitarese
Dicembre 21, 2020

The Vietnamese victims, aged between 15 and 44, suffocated in the back of a trailer as they were shipped to Purfleet in Essex from Belgium on October 23 a year ago.

Two key defendants accused of manslaughter and people smuggling after the gruesome discovery of 39 dead Vietnamese migrants in the back of a lorry in England were found guilty yesterday.

The maximum sentence for people-smuggling is 14 years in prison, with manslaughter carrying a possible life sentence.

In the weeks before the tragedy, Essex Police were also alerted to the gang's activities when residents in the village of Orsett reported that a local farm was a "hotbed of dodgy activity".

The judge said the defendants would be sentenced in January.

It is thought once in the United Kingdom they meant to work on the black market in cannabis factories, nail bars and the restaurant trade, sending money home to their families in Vietnam.

"Nothing can bring back the lives lost on that day or the loss caused by the awful, unlawful and unsafe actions of these defendants".

Prosecutors said Harrison drove the container to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge for transport to the UK Nica was described as the smuggling gang's ringleader. "But we hope that these convictions bring some measure of solace to their families that the perpetrators of these actions have faced justice", he added.

They had suffocated in sweltering temperatures as the airtight container was shipped from Zeebrugge to Purfleet.

On October 17 past year, Harrison took 15 migrants and a load of macaroons and Bakewell tarts to Zeebrugge.

He was sent on his way after 20 migrants were removed from his trailer, two of whom were among the dead on October 23.

On the morning of October 22, Harrison picked up 39 migrants from Bierne in France.

Mobile phones recovered from the victims showed how they had tried to raise the alarm and left goodbye messages for loved ones as they ran out of air.

Others had used a metal pole to try to punch a hole through the roof or attract attention, the court heard.

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