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Man Arrested in Connection With UK Vietnamese Lorry Deaths

Undated family handout photo of (left to right top row) Dinh Dinh Binh, Nguyen Minh Quang, Nguyen Huy Phong, Le Van Ha, Nguyen Van Hiep, Bui Phan Thang, Nguyen Van Hung, Nguyen Huy Hung, Nguyen Tien Dung, Pham Thi Tra My, (left to right second row) Tran Khanh Tho, Nguyen Van Nhan, Vo Ngoc Nam, Vo Van Linh, Nguyen Ba Vu Hung, Vo Nhan Du, Tran Hai Loc, Tran Manh Hung, Nguyen Thi Van, Bui Thi Nhung, (third row left to right) Hoang Van Tiep, Tran Thi Ngoc, Phan Thi Thanh,Tran Thi Tho, Duong Minh Tuan, Pham Thi Ngoc Oanh, Tran Thi Mai Nhung, Le Trong Thanh, Nguyen Ngoc Ha, Hoang Van Hoi, (bottom row left to right) Tran Ngoc Hieu, Cao Tien Dung, Dinh Dinh Thai Quyen, Dang Huu Tuyen, Nguyen Dinh Luong , Cao Huy Thanh, Nguyen Trong Thai, Nguyen Tho Tuan, and Nguyen Dinh Tu, are the 39 Vietnamese migrants, aged between 15 and 44, that were found dead in the back of a trailer in Essex on Oct. 23, 2019. (Essex Police via PA)

UK police arrested a Vietnamese national on Thursday in connection with the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants in 2019.

The 39 migrants, aged between 15 and 44, suffocated to death[1] in the back of a refrigerated lorry as they tried to make their way to the UK on Oct. 23, 2019.

The unnamed male arrested on Thursday is allegedly a part of a human trafficking network that moves migrants into the UK through Belgium and France in the back of lorries, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

Miles Bonfield, NCA’s head of organised immigration crime operations, said that the individual detained “is suspected by the Belgian authorities of having played a key role in placing at least ten migrants inside that lorry.”

The man is suspected of running safe houses in Brussels where the migrants stayed and organising onward taxis to a collection point near Bierne, France, where the migrants were loaded into the refrigerated lorry.

The lorry was then driven from the coastal town near the Belgium/France border to Zeebrugge, Belgium, and put onto a ferry to England.

The NCA said a Belgian investigating magistrate issued an arrest warrant last December for the man, whom it suspects was in the UK and had had links to the Birmingham area.

The man was tracked down and arrested at a supermarket petrol station just off the A66 in Middlesbrough, a town in North Yorkshire, England, on Thursday afternoon.

He is due to appear before Westminster Magistrates where extradition proceedings will begin.

Another Vietnamese man known as Ngo Sy Tai—also wanted by the Belgian authorities for his role in smuggling the victims—was arrested by the NCA in December 2020 and is waiting to be extradited.

Bonfield said officers at the NCA are determined to do all they can ” to get justice for the families of those who died, and disrupt and dismantle the cruel organised criminal networks involved in people smuggling.”

On Jan. 22, seven men convicted over the deaths of the 39 migrants were sentenced[2] to a total of 93 years and eight months in prison.

Eamonn Harrison, who loaded the migrants into the lorry in Bierne and drove them to Zeebrugge, was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Maurice Robinson, the lorry driver who found the bodies in Essex, England, was sentenced to 13 years and four months in prison after pleading guilty to 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration, and acquiring criminal property.

Robinson’s boss Ronan Hughes and his co-conspirator Gheorghe Nica were sentenced to 20 years and 27 years in prison, respectively.

References

  1. ^ suffocated to death (www.theepochtimes.com)
  2. ^ sentenced (www.theepochtimes.com)

Truck Talk: Sound off edition

One of the unintended challenges arising from the near-silent operation of electric trucks is that you cannot hear them coming, especially if you are legally blind. This week, we look at how some truck manufacturers are soundly addressing the challenge…

This is why ew Sheffield railhead is trucking boss’s crown achievement

It saw total victory for the Sheffield haulier, which grew with the popularity of road transport, while the giant rail depot withered with the decline of the steel industry and died.

But the story has a twist.

For the trucking firm has just spent £3m reviving the railhead. And co-founder Frank Newell say it’s his crowning achievement.

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Tinsley Marshalling Yards circa 1965. It had 32 marshalling lanes.Tinsley Marshalling Yards circa 1965. It had 32 marshalling lanes.

Tinsley Marshalling Yards circa 1965. It had 32 marshalling lanes.

Over just seven weeks earlier this year, the company laid out three acres of concrete and 700 yards of track and reconnected the yard to the rail network.

Today it is home to more than 800 shipping containers and receives two 34-wagon freight trains a day from the port of Felixstowe.

The service saves up to 400,000 road miles a week, cutting lorry pollution and congestion, and is already close to its 1,000 container capacity.

Frank, aged 69, said its popularity was a relief.

Frank Newell. Picture Scott MerryleesFrank Newell. Picture Scott Merrylees
Frank Newell. Picture Scott Merrylees

“It was a very big commitment for us as a family business. I’ve been in business for 50 years and have always taken educated gambles. You get to the stage where you have to play forward and do it.

“It’s the best thing I have done. I’m so proud of what we have achieved.”

A mechanic by trade, his youngest son, Anthony, aged 17, is employed in the workshop ‘on the spanners’ learning lorry maintenance.

Sons Stephen, 43, and John, 49, also worked their way up.

The site can store 1,000 containers.The site can store 1,000 containers.
The site can store 1,000 containers.

Frank added: “Going through the ranks gives them a good insight.”

He started with one lorry in 1971 and, with Paul Wright, built the firm into a £50m-a-year business that employs 300.

It is one of just a handful of road hauliers that have moved into rail and Tinsley is the only operation of its type in South Yorkshire, it is claimed.

Stephen said growing concerns about climate change led the firm to move fast.

Unloading the train with a £500,000 box stacker.Unloading the train with a £500,000 box stacker.
Unloading the train with a £500,000 box stacker.

“You have to be careful you don’t get left behind,” he added.

Containers are mostly from China and India and hold everything from patio slabs to clothing to car parts. But they do not have high value items like iPhones or ‘high consequence products’ like fireworks.

About 55 can fit on a train and they are unloaded by four £500,000 ‘box stackers’, including one which runs on hydrogenated vegetable oil, a green fuel.

Containers are taken to their final destination by lorry, some 80 a day in a 24-hour operation.

Stephen said they had used local suppliers, with concrete from Cemex in Attercliffe, reinforcing from BRC in Barnsley and ballast from Aggregate Industries’ quarry in Buxton.

The site is owned by Network Rail and leased to Newell & Wright for 35 years, with a reduction on rent because it is a brownfield site, he added.

Aerial view of Tinsley Marshalling Yards, Sheffield, December 1987.Aerial view of Tinsley Marshalling Yards, Sheffield, December 1987.
Aerial view of Tinsley Marshalling Yards, Sheffield, December 1987.

Its success meant they planned to add two more services, with freight trainers from Southampton and London Gateway on the Suffolk coast.

A second phase of expansion could see a similar-sized platform and storage area built to the south, closer to the bridge over the Parkway, near Junction 33 of the M1.

A third phase could use land to the north, close to two large warehouses that were built on what was the widest part of the marshalling yard.

In 1961, a tenth of the rail-borne freight in Britain originated in the Sheffield district. Tinsley Marshalling Yard was opened by the infamous Dr Richard Beeching in 1965 to serve the steel industry. At its height it handled 200 locomotives and 3,000 wagons a day.

But within a few short years it was hit by competition from road and closed in stages from 1985.

Duncan Clark, of Newell and Wright, said part of the site was cut out of rock and part was electrified, receiving electric trains from Manchester that came through the now closed Woodhead tunnel.

The yard was disused and disconnected from the rail network when Newell and Wright took it on. A new link was laid to the north connecting to a local line near Shepcote junction and then on to Rotherham station, Doncaster and the East Coast Mainline.

The company hopes to connect the site from the south providing a simpler and more direct route into the network, he added.

Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts said the company’s achievement was ‘fantastic’ and he would speak to the mayor of South Yorkshire and Department of Transport about providing financial backing.

He added: “I think what they have done is incredible and what they want to do is fantastic. It’s really rising to the climate challenge.

“I will be speaking to the mayor about how we can engage, this is a really important part of local infrastructure and should benefit a lot of firms.

“It’s also of national significance and I’ll be speaking to the Department of Transport about providing some sort of financial backing and support.

“There have been various plans over the years to reopen the yard but these guys have done it.”

Kevin Newman, senior route freight manager for Network Rail, hailed the site as part of the ‘vital role that freight has played in the country’s response to the Covid pandemic and how important it is to the recovery of the economy’.

“Reopening routes, expanding services and gaining new freight customers, as well as running longer, heavier trains, is helping to get more HGVs off the road.”

Newell & Wright Transport was formed in 1974 by Frank Newell and Paul Wright. At that time it was a ‘very small general haulage company’ operating from rented premises.

Over the years it grew and moved to larger sites three times before setting up, in 1987, on its current 6.5 acre freehold site at Tinsley.

Local journalism holds the powerful to account and gives people a voice. Please take out a digital subscription[1] or buy a paper.

Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.

A freight train from the port of Felixstowe arrives at Tinsley Marshalling Yard. Picture Scott MerryleesA freight train from the port of Felixstowe arrives at Tinsley Marshalling Yard. Picture Scott Merrylees
A freight train from the port of Felixstowe arrives at Tinsley Marshalling Yard. Picture Scott Merrylees
Three acres of concrete were laid to make the site.Three acres of concrete were laid to make the site.
Three acres of concrete were laid to make the site.
Frank Newell at Tinsley Marshalling Yards.Frank Newell at Tinsley Marshalling Yards.
Frank Newell at Tinsley Marshalling Yards.
From left: MP Clive Betts and Stephen and Frank Newell have their picture taken as a train arrives.From left: MP Clive Betts and Stephen and Frank Newell have their picture taken as a train arrives.
From left: MP Clive Betts and Stephen and Frank Newell have their picture taken as a train arrives.

References

  1. ^ digital subscription (www.thestar.co.uk)

People smuggling suspect arrested over death of 39 Vietnamese migrants

People smuggling suspect wanted in connection with the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants found dead in the back of a lorry in Essex is arrested by the NCA at a supermarket petrol station in Middlesbrough

  • The Vietnamese national, who has not been named, was detained at a supermarket petrol station just off the A66 in Middlesbrough on Thursday
  • The man is wanted by Belgian authorities who allege he played a role in placing at least ten migrants inside the lorry where 39 migrants were found dead
  • The 39 Vietnamese migrants were found dead in a lorry in October 2019 in Essex

A suspected people smuggler wanted in connection with the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants found dead in the back of a lorry in Essex has been arrested by National Crime[2] Agency officers. 

The Vietnamese national, who has not been named, was detained at a supermarket petrol station just off the A66 in Middlesbrough at around 1pm on Thursday afternoon. 

The man is wanted by the Belgian authorities who allege he has played a key role in placing at least ten migrants inside the lorry where 39 people were found dead in October 2019, according to the NCA. 

They suspect he is a member of a people smuggling network which moves migrants through Belgium and France[3] and into the UK in the back of lorries.

The Vietnamese national, who has not been named, is wanted by the Belgian authorities who allege he has played a key role in placing at least ten migrants inside the lorry where 39 people died. Pictured: Police and Forensic officers inspecting the lorry at the Waterglade Park in Essex in October 2019

The Vietnamese national, who has not been named, is wanted by the Belgian authorities who allege he has played a key role in placing at least ten migrants inside the lorry where 39 people died. Pictured: Police and Forensic officers inspecting the lorry at the Waterglade Park in Essex in October 2019

The Vietnamese national, who has not been named, is wanted by the Belgian authorities who allege he has played a key role in placing at least ten migrants inside the lorry where 39 people died. Pictured: Police and Forensic officers inspecting the lorry at the Waterglade Park in Essex in October 2019

The man was detained at a supermarket petrol station just off the A66 in Middlesbrough at around 1pm on Thursday afternoon. Pictured: The lorry where 39 migrants were found dead in Essex

The man was detained at a supermarket petrol station just off the A66 in Middlesbrough at around 1pm on Thursday afternoon. Pictured: The lorry where 39 migrants were found dead in Essex

The man was detained at a supermarket petrol station just off the A66 in Middlesbrough at around 1pm on Thursday afternoon. Pictured: The lorry where 39 migrants were found dead in Essex

The man is suspected of running safe houses in Brussels where the migrants stayed before their fatal journey as well as organising their onward transport in taxis to a collection point in France where they were put in the back of a sealed refrigerated lorry.   

The arrest comes just days after Italian police said on Saturday they had arrested Romanian citizen Stefan Damian Dragos who allegedly provided the lorry where the 39 migrants were found.   

There was no immediate statement from the suspect or from any lawyer representing him. He was arrested in the town of Cinisello Balsamo, north of Milan, but police gave no further details.

The Vietnamese national who was arrested today was tracked down by NCA investigators to Middlesbrough. A Belgian investigating magistrate has issued a warrant for his arrest in December after suspecting he had fled to the UK.      

The man will now appear before Westminster Magistrates where extradition proceedings will begin.

Inside were the bodies of 28 men, eight women and three children (pictured) who died 'excruciatingly slow' deaths while at sea as temperatures inside soared to 38.5C

Inside were the bodies of 28 men, eight women and three children (pictured) who died 'excruciatingly slow' deaths while at sea as temperatures inside soared to 38.5C

Inside were the bodies of 28 men, eight women and three children (pictured) who died ‘excruciatingly slow’ deaths while at sea as temperatures inside soared to 38.5C

The NCA’s Head of Organised Immigration Crime Operations, Miles Bonfield, said: ‘This is another significant arrest in terms of the identifying those involved in the events which led to the tragic deaths of those 39 migrants.

‘The individual detained today is suspected by the Belgian authorities of having played a key role in placing at least ten migrants inside that lorry.

‘Working closely with partners in the UK, Europe and beyond we are determined to do all we can to get justice for the families of those who died, and disrupt and dismantle the cruel organised criminal networks involved in people smuggling.’

In April, another Vietnamese national who is accused of being a key ‘organiser’ in the fatal smuggling operation lost his appeal against extradition. 

Ngo Sy Tai, also known as Hung Sy Truong, was arrested in December last year by NCA in Redditch, Worcestershire, on a European Arrest Warrant.

He is wanted in Belgium over allegations he ran a so-called ‘safe house’ for his fellow Vietnamese nationals in Anderlecht, Brussels. 

Following his arrest, Ngo appealed the decision that he should be extradited, but District Judge Mark Jabbitt refused the appeal in April.  

Ngo Sy Tai, pictured right, was arrested in Redditch, Worcestershire, on a European Arrest Warrant in connection with the deaths of Vietnamese migrants. In April, he lost an appeal against his extradition to Belgium

Ngo Sy Tai, pictured right, was arrested in Redditch, Worcestershire, on a European Arrest Warrant in connection with the deaths of Vietnamese migrants. In April, he lost an appeal against his extradition to Belgium

Ngo Sy Tai, pictured right, was arrested in Redditch, Worcestershire, on a European Arrest Warrant in connection with the deaths of Vietnamese migrants. In April, he lost an appeal against his extradition to Belgium

In January this year, four men were jailed for a total of 78 years for killing the 39 Vietnamese migrants by bringing them into the UK in a sealed lorry.  

Drivers Eamonn Harrison, 23, and Maurice Robinson, 26 – together with Romanian fixer Gheorghe Nica, 43 – were paid by Ronan Hughes, 40, to ferry non-EU citizens into the UK. 

Hughes headed the million-pound people-smuggling ring which used death trap lorries on multiple occasions – charging his human cargo up to £14,000 a head for a ‘VIP’ service.

But the journey in October 2019 went horribly wrong when driver Robinson opened the back of his refrigerated trailer in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, to be met with a gush of steam – and 39 bodies.

Hughes was jailed for 20 years, while fixer Nica – who arranged transport from Essex to London for the foreign nationals – was sentenced to 27.

Robinson was handed a 13-year and four-month sentence, while Harrison – who dropped off the trailer in Zeebrugge before it was sailed to Britain – was jailed for 18 years.   

Ronan Hughes, 40, (pictured) headed the million-pound people-smuggling ring which used death trap lorries on multiple occasions - charging his human cargo £14,000 a head

Ronan Hughes, 40, (pictured) headed the million-pound people-smuggling ring which used death trap lorries on multiple occasions - charging his human cargo £14,000 a head

But the journey in October 2019 went horribly wrong when driver Maurice Robinson, 26, (pictured) opened the back of his refrigerated trailer in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, to be met with a gush of steam - and 39 bodies.

But the journey in October 2019 went horribly wrong when driver Maurice Robinson, 26, (pictured) opened the back of his refrigerated trailer in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, to be met with a gush of steam - and 39 bodies.

Ronan Hughes, 40, (left) headed the million-pound people-smuggling ring which used death trap lorries on multiple occasions – charging his human cargo £14,000 a head. But the journey in October 2019 went horribly wrong when driver Maurice Robinson, 26, (right) opened the back of his refrigerated trailer in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, to be met with a gush of steam – and 39 bodies.

Driver Eamonn Harrison, 23, (pictured) - who dropped off the trailer in Zeebrugge before it was sailed to Britain - was jailed for 18 years

Driver Eamonn Harrison, 23, (pictured) - who dropped off the trailer in Zeebrugge before it was sailed to Britain - was jailed for 18 years

Eamonn Harrison

Eamonn Harrison

Driver Eamonn Harrison, 23, (pictured) – who dropped off the trailer in Zeebrugge before it was sailed to Britain – was jailed for 18 years

Romanian fixer Gheorghe Nica, 43, who arranged transport from Essex to London for the foreign nationals - was sentenced to 27

Romanian fixer Gheorghe Nica, 43, who arranged transport from Essex to London for the foreign nationals - was sentenced to 27

Alexandru Hanga, 28, from Essex, has been jailed for three years for conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Alexandru Hanga, 28, from Essex, has been jailed for three years for conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Romanian fixer Gheorghe Nica, 43, (left) who arranged transport from Essex to London for the foreign nationals, was sentenced to 27 years.  Alexandru Hanga, 28, from Essex, (right) has been jailed for three years for conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Christopher Kennedy, 24, from County Armagh, has been jailed for seven years

Christopher Kennedy, 24, from County Armagh, has been jailed for seven years

Valentin Calota, 37, from Birmingham, has been jailed for four and a half years

Valentin Calota, 37, from Birmingham, has been jailed for four and a half years

Christopher Kennedy, 24, from County Armagh, (left) has been jailed for seven years and Valentin Calota, 37, from Birmingham,  has been jailed for four and a half years – both guilty of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

CCTV shows police arriving at the scene where Robinson had found the bodies in the back of his lorry (top right)

CCTV shows police arriving at the scene where Robinson had found the bodies in the back of his lorry (top right)

CCTV shows police arriving at the scene where Robinson had found the bodies in the back of his lorry (top right)

Mr Justice Sweeney said in January: ‘I have no doubt that, as asserted by the prosecution, the conspiracy was a sophisticated, long running, and profitable one to smuggle mainly Vietnamese migrants across the channel.’ 

During the trial, jurors saw horrifying footage of steam gushing from the container as Robinson opened the doors after pulling up in Eastern Avenue, Grays, at 1.13am on October 23, 2019. 

Inside were the bodies of 28 men, eight women and three children who died ‘excruciatingly slow’ deaths while at sea as temperatures inside soared to 38.5C.

Had they arrived safely the smugglers would have made £800,000 for the journey, the court heard.

Instead of calling the police upon his discovery, Robinson called Hughes.

Kingpin Hughes told him to ‘open the doors, give them air’ but Robinson fired back, saying: ‘I can’t, they’re f****** dead.’

He waited more than 20 minutes to make the 999 call after opening the doors to see the victims half-naked having suffocated to death in ‘unbearable’ temperatures. 

The final moments of the dying victims as they gasped for air and cried for help were also played during the trial at London’s Old Bailey.

A photo showing pole marks inside the lorry trailer after migrants attempted to make air holes shortly before they suffocated

A photo showing pole marks inside the lorry trailer after migrants attempted to make air holes shortly before they suffocated

A photo showing pole marks inside the lorry trailer after migrants attempted to make air holes shortly before they suffocated

Video played to the court showed the moment officers arrived on scene in Essex and (inset) body cam footage shows an officer looking for signs of life inside the lorry. Driver Maurice Robinson called 999 after discovering the bodies in his lorry

Video played to the court showed the moment officers arrived on scene in Essex and (inset) body cam footage shows an officer looking for signs of life inside the lorry. Driver Maurice Robinson called 999 after discovering the bodies in his lorry

Video played to the court showed the moment officers arrived on scene in Essex and (inset) body cam footage shows an officer looking for signs of life inside the lorry. Driver Maurice Robinson called 999 after discovering the bodies in his lorry

Romanian fixer Gheorghe Nica, 43, (pictured) - who arranged transport from Essex to London for the foreign nationals - was sentenced to 27

Romanian fixer Gheorghe Nica, 43, (pictured) - who arranged transport from Essex to London for the foreign nationals - was sentenced to 27

 Gheorghe Nica in a shop purchasing a mobile phone top-up

Nguyen Tho Tuan taped a harrowing final message for his family at 7.37pm. 

The 25-year-old said: ‘It’s Tuan. I am sorry. I cannot take care of you. I am sorry. I am sorry. I cannot breathe. I want to come back to my family. Have a good life.’

Just before 7pm, another victim, Nguyen Dinh Luong, 20, had desperately tried to call Vietnamese emergency services, dialling 133, but phone signal in the trailer had cut out. 

Another male victim recorded a message at 8.02pm apologising to his parents and telling them: ‘I have to go.’

A voice in the background can be heard trying to reassure their compatriots, saying: ‘Come on everyone, open up, and open up.’

A graphic used by Essex Police illustrating location of the 39 bodies found inside a container lorry in Grays, Essex

A graphic used by Essex Police illustrating location of the 39 bodies found inside a container lorry in Grays, Essex

A graphic used by Essex Police illustrating location of the 39 bodies found inside a container lorry in Grays, Essex

At 1.07am, Robinson collected the trailer, some 12 hours after it was sealed. He was instructed by Hughes via Snapchat to 'give them air quickly don't let them out'.

At 1.07am, Robinson collected the trailer, some 12 hours after it was sealed. He was instructed by Hughes via Snapchat to 'give them air quickly don't let them out'.

At 1.07am, Robinson collected the trailer, some 12 hours after it was sealed. He was instructed by Hughes via Snapchat to ‘give them air quickly don’t let them out’.

Speaking outside the Old Bailey DCI Daniel Stoten (pictured) - who led the Essex police investigation - said: 'I welcome today's sentences'

Speaking outside the Old Bailey DCI Daniel Stoten (pictured) - who led the Essex police investigation - said: 'I welcome today's sentences'

Speaking outside the Old Bailey DCI Daniel Stoten (pictured) – who led the Essex police investigation – said: ‘I welcome today’s sentences’

Moments later, another victim said: ‘He’s dead.’

The original tape, which captures the bravery of the migrants as they realised they were dying, was played before prosecutor Jonathan Polnay who translated the messages.

Who has been convicted in the Essex lorry death case? 

Eamonn Harrison, 23

  • Guilty of 39 counts of manslaughter
  • Guilty of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Gheorghe Nica, 43

  • Guilty of 39 counts of manslaughter
  • Admits conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Valentin Calota, 37

  • Guilty of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Christopher Kennedy, 24

  • Guilty of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Maurice Robinson, 26

  • Admits 39 counts of manslaughter
  • Admits conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Ronan Hughes, 41

  • Admits 39 counts of manslaughter 
  • Admits conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration
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Translating the first recording Mr Polnay said: ”I’m so sorry’ – that’s him speaking to his wife and his child – ‘I’m sorry’ – that’s to his mother – ‘I’m sorry’ – and that’s addressed to his whole family. ‘I cannot breathe. I want to come back to my family. Have a good life.”

Referring to the second message Mr Polnay said: ‘He says I can’t breathe, he says his name, I’m sorry to his parents, I have to go. It’s all my fault.

‘And a voice in his the background says: ‘Come on everyone, open up and open up.” 

Driver Eamonn Harrison and fixer Gheorghe Nica were earlier convicted of 39 counts of manslaughter. 

Robinson also admitted 39 counts of manslaughter while Harrison was found guilty of  39 counts of manslaughter and of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Fellow gang members lorry drivers Christopher Kennedy, 24, from County Armagh, and Valentin Calota, 38, from Birmingham – who were not involved in the October 2019 tragedy – were found guilty of assisting illegal immigration by an Old Bailey jury. 

Gazmir Nuzi, 42, and Alexandru Hanga, 28, from Essex, both admitted one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration last year. 

Their involvement described as relating to a single occasion in each case – prior to the October 22 tragedy.  

Robinson, Hughes, Nica and Harrison sat in a row in the main dock while Kennedy, Calota and Hanga appeared virtually from another courtroom in the building during the sentencing in January. Nuzi did not appear. 

The judge said in January the victims had died ‘excruciatingly slow’ deaths at sea, before they reached Purfleet.

Kingpin Hughes hung his head as he was spared a life sentence.

Timeline of the Essex lorry tragedy 

Here is a timeline of events surrounding the deaths of 39 Vietnamese men, women and children in the back of a lorry in Essex.

  • May 9 2018: Eamonn Harrison is stopped at Coquelles in France driving a lorry into the Channel Tunnel. It is found to have 18 Vietnamese nationals hidden in the back sitting on boxes of waffles. He is issued with a fine which is never paid.
  • May 1 2019: Harrison is caught drink-driving in Drantum, Germany, after he lost control and his lorry toppled over. He is convicted and ordered to pay 855 euro.
  • October 9 2019: At 9.04pm, Harrison’s GPS tracker places his truck in La Chappelle d’Armentieres in northern France. He beds down for the night in Bailleul.
  • October 10: Harrison makes a series of stops in Nieppe, La Chapelle d’Armentieres and Lissewege before he delivers a human cargo to Zeebrugge in Belgium to be transported to Purfleet in Essex.
  • October 11: At 7am, the trailer containing the migrants is picked up in Purfleet by lorry driver Christopher Kennedy and taken to a drop-off point near Orsett Golf Club.
  • At 8.18am, Gheorghe Nica, Alexandru Hanga, Marius Draghici and Gazmir Nuzi are caught on CCTV allegedly arriving in convoy.
  • At 8.22am, Marie Andrews and Stewart Cox, who live on Collingwood Farm, Orsett, see a red lorry with a white trailer pull up, together with four black Mercedes vehicles. As they watched, 15 to 20 people jump out of the lorry and run to the Mercedes.
  • October 14: At 7.25am Kennedy travels from Dover to Calais with the same lorry, but a different trailer.
  • At 11.50pm, Kennedy is stopped at Coquelles, en route to Folkestone via the Eurotunnel. Twenty Vietnamese nationals are discovered in his trailer and taken away by the border authorities, but Kennedy is allowed to continue with his journey. It later transpires two of the migrants are among the victims.
  • October 17: Harrison makes a second successful run, dropping off a container load of migrants at Zeebrugge with a consignment of biscuits.
  • October 18: At 7.24am, Kennedy picks up the trailer and takes it to the same pick-up point at Orsett. Valentin Calota is one of the drivers brought by Nica to collect the new arrivals and drive them over the Dartford crossing and into south-east London.
  • In the afternoon, Barbara Richmond-Clarke, warehouse manager at Lenham Storage, in Kent, rejects the delivery of crushed and dirty biscuit boxes.
  • In the evening, haulier boss Ronan Hughes, lorry driver Maurice Robinson, Draghici and Nica – now carrying a heavy bag full of cash – meet at the Ibis Hotel in Thurrock.
  • At 9.53pm, Harrison is found drunk in Bruges, Belgium, and is stopped by police.
  • October 19: At 9.09am, police find Harrison’s truck has been parked illegally and ask him to move.
  • October 22: From 5.47am, five of the victims’ phones are used in Paris.
  • Around 9am, more are detected on the Belgian border between Dunkerque and Lille.
  • From 9.21am, CCTV shows three taxis arriving at Bierne, northern France, followed by Harrison’s lorry.
  • At 1.41pm Harrison’s lorry arrives at Zeebrugge port.
  • At 2.52pm, the trailer containing 39 people, aged between 15 and 44, is loaded onto the MV Clementine which sails late, at 3.36pm.
  • At 7.37 pm, young father Nguyen Tho Tuan records a message for his family saying: ‘It’s Tuan. I am sorry. I cannot take care of you. I am sorry. I am sorry. I cannot breathe. I want to come back to my family. Have a good life.’
  • Between 9.42pm and 10.42pm, the temperature in the trailer peaks at 38.5 Celsius.
  • Between 10pm and 10.30pm the atmosphere is estimated to have reached toxic levels, killing all 39 victims.
  • October 23: At 12.18am, the Clementine docks at Purfleet.
  • At 1.07am, Robinson collects the trailer, some 12 hours after it was sealed. He is instructed by Hughes via Snapchat to ‘give them air quickly don’t let them out’.
  • Robinson drives out of Purfleet, stops and opens the doors at the back. He stands for 90 seconds before getting back in the cab.
  • From 1.15 am, Robinson drives around for seven minutes before returning to the same location on Eastern Avenue. He opens the rear doors again, calls Hughes for one minutes and 42 seconds and takes a minute-long call from Nica.
  • Over 15 minutes, there is a flurry of telephone contact between Hughes, Robinson, Kennedy and Nica, who leaves the area of Collingwood Farm.
  • At 1.36am, Robinson telephones 999 and requests an ambulance.
  • At 1.50am, police arrived on the scene and find Robinson looking ‘calm’ by the trailer.
  • Later that morning, Kennedy tells a friend via text: ‘must have been 2 many and run out of air.’
  • Nica takes an evening flight from Luton to Romania.
  • October 24: Draghici flies to Bucharest, in Romania, and remains at large.
  • November 22: Kennedy is arrested after the lorry he is driving on the M40 in Oxfordshire is stopped.
  • February 7, 2020: Nica is extradited to the UK after being detained in Frankfurt under a European Arrest Warrant.
  • March 14: Calota is arrested on arrival at Birmingham airport from Romania.
  • April 8: Robinson pleads guilty at the Old Bailey to 39 counts of manslaughter.
  • June 23: Hughes is extradited from the Republic of Ireland to the UK and pleads guilty to the manslaughter in August.
  • July 22: Harrison is extradited to the UK having been detained at Dublin Port, Ireland, under European Arrest Warrant, on October 26 2019.
  • October 5: Nica and Harrison go on trial at the Old Bailey for manslaughter. Harrison, Calota and Kennedy are accused of being involved in a wider people-smuggling conspiracy, which Nica, Robinson, Hughes and two others have admitted.
  • December 21: they are convicted of manslaughter
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Wearing a Nike jacket and jeans for his sentencing, Nica showed no emotion when he was jailed for 27 years imprisonment.

Harrison, who was convicted of the 39 counts by a majority of 10-1, nodded as he was jailed for 18 years.

Mr Justice Sweeney said the offences did not ‘meet the criteria’ for life sentences because it was possible the killers had not known there was a serious risk of death.

The smugglers had been involved in the deadly trade for years despite repeated run-ins with the authorities.

Harrison was fined after he was stopped near Calais driving a lorry full of Vietnamese nationals in May 2018.

The people smuggler was caught in Coquelles with 18 migrants concealed in the back of his truck.

He didn’t even bother to pay the fine and continued ‘busily bringing illegal immigrants into the country’ along with his co-conspirators.

On October 14, 2019,  Kennedy was waved on by French border officials when he tried to smuggle two of the Vietnamese migrants who died weeks later in the tragedy.

The 20 foreign nationals in his trailer were taken away – but Kennedy was allowed to continue on his journey.

At least two of those on board were later suffocated to death when they tried again on 23 October.

Police had been tipped off about the Essex route since the summer of 2019 but had done nothing.

Resident Marie Andrews reported the people-smuggling drop to police three times after seeing a group of Vietnamese nationals jump out of a lorry outside her home two weeks before the tragedy.

She called the police after she and her partner Stewart Cox watched a lorry unload 15 to 20 non-EU citizens and tried to warn officers on 11 October.

Giving evidence, Ms Andrews said she had been calling emergency services about ‘dodgy’ activity at her home on Collingwood Farm near Orsett since the summer of 2019.

But she told the court officers ‘had not been listening.’

Harrison met the migrants at a rendezvous in Chemin-Noord Strate in France before driving them to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge.

From there, they sailed across the channel and were collected by Robinson at Purfleet.

They would be dropped off at a handover point on a remote farm near Orsett, from where Nica and his drivers – including Calota – drove them to their final destination in London by car.

Usually loads of around 15 to 20 migrants were taken to the Belgian border.

But after a botched run on 13 October the traffickers wanted to do two loads in one and crammed the container with 39 Vietnamese nationals.

Robinson knew something was wrong on the final leg of the route because he was sent a message on Snapchat by Hughes, reading: ‘Give them air quickly, but don’t let them out,’ to which he responded with a thumbs-up emoji.

The exchange happened at some point between midnight and 1.20am when he opened the container door and found the lifeless bodies piled up.

First he called Hughes and then Nica, waiting 23 minutes to contact the emergency services.

PC Jack Emerson, who attended the scene after the 999 call, said ‘At the back of the trailer I could see a 6ft white male standing at the rear of the trailer that I took as the driver.

‘He was just standing there, his demeanour appeared calm.

‘I could visibly see half naked bodies laying on the trailer floor laying motionless. It became apparent as I got closer that the entire trailer was full of bodies.

‘Most of the bodies were half naked.

‘Most of the bodies were wearing clothes on their lower half but not on their lower half.

‘All of the bodies appeared intact and it was my opinion they had not been there for a long time.

‘As I moved through the trailer I checked the bodies for pulse but couldn’t find one.

‘Because of how packed together the bodies were it was not possible to check every body.

‘I recall when checking some bodies some of them appeared to have been frothing from the mouth.’

Nica admitted assisting unlawful immigration at the start of the trial, but claimed he was no longer involved by the time tragedy struck on October 23.

The British-Romanian said he had agreed to smuggle people into the country previously because Hughes ‘came to England and asked him’ but then opted out on October 23.

He shared a ‘celebratory drink’ after a people-smuggling run on October 18 in the bar of the Ibis hotel in Thurrock with Robinson.

The four toasted the success of the operation before moving to Hughes’ suite upstairs where a cash handover took place.

Nica insisted he stopped his involvement in the runs after that, claiming he had only been in the country waiting to get British passports for his estranged wife and children.

He said he had been anxious to make money to pay for a rare medical treatment for his four-year-old daughter, who has cerebral palsy.

Kennedy and Calota claimed they unwittingly transported the migrants into the country.

But Kennedy accepted that he had helped Hughes ‘disguise’ evidence of human contamination after the October 18 run.

He told jurors he had been due to deliver a legitimate load of Mrs Crimble’s macaroons and Bakewell tarts to a warehouse in Maidstone, Kent, after the stowaways were left with Nica.

When he opened up the back doors the boxes were squashed and covered in footprints with ‘bags of p***’ discarded amongst the goods.

Calota insisting that he had ‘hearing problems’ and had been told to look ahead while Nica loaded the migrants into the back of his van at Collingwood Farm.

He said he had agreed to transport loads of smuggled cigarettes, but denied knowing migrants were in the back of his van during an hour-long journey down to London on the same date.

The group of migrants were from five provinces in the central, coastal area of Vietnam and two provinces near Hanoi

The group of migrants were from five provinces in the central, coastal area of Vietnam and two provinces near Hanoi

The group of migrants were from five provinces in the central, coastal area of Vietnam and two provinces near Hanoi

Harrison insisted he had no idea the Vietnamese nationals were in the container but claimed Hughes, put a price on his head after he crashed one of his trucks in Germany while drunk.

Their claims were rejected by the jury after 22 hours and 48 minutes of deliberation.

Unanimous guilty verdicts were reached for Nica and Kennedy while Harrison and Calota were convicted on each count by a majority of 10 to 1. 

Nica, of Mimosa Close, Langdon Hills, Basildon, Essex, denied but was convicted of 39 counts of manslaughter and one count of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration relating to the date of 23 October.

He admitted a further count of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration relating to the period before the tragedy and was jailed for 27 years. 

Speaking outside the Old Bailey in January DCI Daniel Stoten – who led the Essex police investigation – said: ‘I welcome today’s sentences.

‘These significant sentences are a reflection of the serious and organised nature of the crimes and of course the tragic circumstances of the case.

‘The quality of the evidence presented assured all the suspects faced justice including those who refused to admit their guilt.

‘Most significant of all of these was Gheorghe Nica, who told lie after lie after lie, in the most despicable manner.

‘The criminals in this case made their money from misery they knew what they were doing was dangerous but they did it anyway.

‘They treated them as commodities and they transported them in ways we would not transport animals.

‘I hope this sentence send a strong message to those involved in this type of crime and that message is we will find you, we will stop you and we will bring you to justice.

‘Two of the victims were just 15 years old. They died in the most unimaginable of ways. They died because of the utter greed of the people involved.

‘I hope today’s significant sentences bring some comfort to the families and friends of the victims it has been my pleasure to lead this investigation on their behalf.

‘As always the victims and their families are in my thoughts in our thoughts today and always.’       

References

  1. ^ Rachael Bunyan For Mailonline (www.dailymail.co.uk)
  2. ^ Crime (www.dailymail.co.uk)
  3. ^ France (www.dailymail.co.uk)

Essex lorry deaths: Man arrested in connection with deaths of 39 migrants | ITV News

A man has been arrested at a supermarket petrol station in Middlesbrough in connection with the investigation into the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants found in a refrigerated container in Essex in 2019[1].

The National Crime Agency (NCA) said that the Vietnamese national, who is not being named, was detained at the site just off the A66 at about 1pm this afternoon (17th June).

He is wanted by the Belgian authorities, who allege he was a member of a people-smuggling network moving migrants through Belgium and France and into the UK in the back of lorries.

Among the men, women and children were 10 teenagers, two of them 15-year-old boys. Credit: NCA

He is suspected of running safe houses in Brussels, where the migrants stayed before their fatal journey. He is also accused of organising their onward transport in taxis to the collection point in France, where they were stowed in the rear of the refrigerated lorry.

The bodies of the 39 Vietnamese nationals were discovered at an industrial estate in Grays in Essex, shortly after the container arrived on a ferry from Zeebrugge in Belgium in the early hours of October 23 2019. Among the men, women and children were 10 teenagers, two of them 15-year-old boys.

A Belgian investigating magistrate issued an arrest warrant in December, suspecting that the man was now in the UK and had links to the Birmingham area. However NCA investigators were able to track him down to a location in Middlesbrough where he was detained.

He is expected to appear before Westminster Magistrates on Friday where extradition proceedings will begin.

Earlier this year seven people were given jail terms totalling more than 92 years for their roles in the events which led to the Essex deaths, including four men who were found guilty of manslaughter.[2]


Man arrested in connection with Essex lorry deaths

National Crime Agency officers have arrested a man wanted in connection with the smuggling of migrants found dead in a lorry in Essex in October 2019

Author: Tom HailePublished 31 minutes ago
Last updated 31 minutes ago

A man’s been arrested – in connection with the smuggling of migrants found dead in a lorry in Essex in 2019.

The Vietnamese national was detained at a supermarket petrol station just off the A66 in Middlesbrough this afternoon.

He is wanted by the Belgian authorities who allege he was a member of a people smuggling network moving migrants through Belgium and France and into the UK in the back of lorries.

He is suspected of running safe houses in Brussels where the migrants stayed before their fatal journey.

He is also accused of organising their onward transport in taxis to the collection point in France where they were stowed in the rear of the refrigerated lorry.

A Belgian investigating magistrate issued an arrest warrant in December, suspecting that he was now in the UK and had links to the Birmingham area.

However NCA investigators were able to track him down to a location in Middlesbrough where he was detained today, in an operation supported by the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU).

He will now appear before Westminster Magistrates where extradition proceedings will begin.

The NCA’s Head of Organised Immigration Crime Operations, Miles Bonfield, said:

“This is another significant arrest in terms of the identifying those involved in the events which led to the tragic deaths of those 39 migrants.

“The individual detained today is suspected by the Belgian authorities of having played a key role in placing at least ten migrants inside that lorry.

“Working closely with partners in the UK, Europe and beyond we are determined to do all we can to get justice for the families of those who died, and disrupt and dismantle the cruel organised criminal networks involved in people smuggling.”

Earlier this year seven people were given jail terms totalling more than 92 years for their roles in the events which led to the Essex deaths, including four men who were found guilty of manslaughter.

This followed an extensive investigation led by Essex Police and supported by the NCA.

Another Vietnamese national, a man known as Ngo Sy Tai, was arrested by the NCA in December 2020 – he is also wanted by the Belgian authorities for his role in smuggling the victims.

He awaits extradition.

Hear all the latest news from across the UK on the hour, every hour, on Greatest Hits Radio on DAB, at greatesthitsradio.co.uk, and on the Greatest Hits Radio app.[1]