Lorry driver to face 41 charges over migrant deaths in Britain
A Northern Irish truck driver will face manslaughter and human trafficking conspiracy charges over the deaths of 39 Viernamese migrants in a lorry container in Essex.
Eamonn Harrison (22) was arrested on foot of a European Arrest Warrant and brought before the High Court, where Irish authorities are seeking to have him surrendered for extradition to the UK.
The court heard British authorities want his extradition for prosecution on 39 counts of manslaughter, one charge of conspiracy to commit hum-an trafficking and another of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
The 41 allegations relate to the deaths of eight women and 31 men found dead in a container lorry in an industrial park in Essex on October 23.
Mr Justice Donald Binchy adjourned the case for an extradition hearing later this month.
Mr Harrison, from Mayobridge, Co Down, was arrested at Dublin Port last Saturday.
He remained in custody when he appeared before the High Court yesterday.
Detective Sergeant Jim Kirwan, of the Garda Extradition Unit, gave evidence that he executed a European Arrest Warrant in the holding cells of the Criminal Courts of Justice at 10.15am.
He said the case related to the trafficking and subsequent deaths of 39 people within an articulated trailer unit.
At 1.38am on October 23, Essex Police received a call from the East of England Ambulance Service stating that they were getting reports of 25 illegal immigrants not breathing within a lorry in the area of the Eastern Avenue, Waterglade Industrial Estate, West Thurrock, Essex.
Police attended the scene. The driver of the lorry was standing at the back of the trailer. He was later identi- fied as Maurice Robinson.
Inside the trailer were 39 people - eight females and 31 males who were all dead, Det Sgt Kirwan said.
Enquiries revealed that the trailer unit had been delivered by a lorry to Zeebrugge, Belgium, before being transported to the UK, where it was collected by Mr Robinson from the port of Purfleet, Essex.
Mr Harrison was identified as the driver of the lorry that was used to deliver a trailer unit to the port of Zeebrugge, the court heard.
CCTV taken hours before at a truck stop in Veurne, Belgium, showed Mr Harrison to be the driver of the lorry that deposited the trailer at Zeebrugge for transmission to Purfleet, Essex, Det Sgt Kirwan said.
A shipping notice provided at Zeebrugge when the tractor unit arrived at the gate was signed in the name "Eamonn Harrison", the court heard.
Mr Harrison travelled back to Ireland in the lorry via a ferry from Cherbourg, France.
The respondent's barrister, Tony McGillicuddy, asked for extended time to prepare for the extradition hearing. Judge Binchy set a hearing date of November 21 and said Mr McGillicuddy could renew his application on November 11.
Remanding Mr Harrison in custody, he advised him he had the right to voluntarily surrender himself to the UK authorities at any time.
Mr Harrison, wearing a grey polo shirt and black-rimmed glasses, sat watching proceedings from the side of the courtroom and was not required to speak. He has not yet been charged with any offences in relation to the Essex investigation.
Mr Robinson (25) appeared at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court last Monday charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering.
Three other people arrested in connection with the investigation have all been released on bail.