Lorry driver pleads guilty over role in Essex deaths
London, November 25th 2019 (The Guardian): A lorry driver charged with the manslaughter of 39 Vietnamese migrants found dead in a refrigerated trailer has pleaded guilty to plotting to assist illegal immigration.
Maurice Robinson, 25, who is known as Mo, was allegedly part of a global smuggling ring. He was arrested shortly after the bodies of eight females and 31 males were found in a trailer attached to his Scania cab in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, on 23 October.
The victims were identified later as Vietnamese nationals, with the youngest being two boys aged 15.
Robinson appeared at the Old Bailey in London via video link from Belmarsh prison for a plea hearing. He spoke to confirm his identity and British nationality.
Robinson admitted conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration between 1 May 2018 and 24 October 2019. The charge states that he plotted with others to do “an act or series of acts which facilitated the commission of a breach of immigration law by various persons”.
During the hearing before Mr Justice Edis, Robinson also admitted acquiring criminal property – namely cash – on the same dates. He was not asked to enter pleas to other charges, including 39 counts of manslaughter.
Police formally identified all 39 victims this month and informed their families. It has emerged, however, that relatives of the migrants found dead were told that neither the British nor Vietnamese governments would bear the costs of repatriating the bodies.
Police in Vietnam have arrested eight people suspected of being part of a ring responsible for smuggling Vietnamese people to Britain.
Essex police have launched extradition proceedings to bring Eamonn Harrison, 22, from Ireland to the UK. He appeared at Dublin’s central criminal court last Thursday after he was arrested on a European arrest warrant in respect of 39 counts of manslaughter, one count of a human trafficking offence and one count of assisting unlawful immigration.
Harrison is accused of driving the lorry with the refrigerated container to Zeebrugge in Belgium before it was collected in Essex by Robinson.
Robinson was remanded into custody until a further hearing on 13 December.