herald

Saturday 14 December 2019

NI trucker admits he was part of plot to transport migrants

Lorry driver Maurice Robinson due in court again next month
Lorry driver Maurice Robinson due in court again next month

A Northern Irish man has admitted plotting to assist unlawful immigration after 39 Vietnamese migrants were found dead in the back of a truck he was driving.

Maurice Robinson also pleaded guilty to acquiring criminal property, but was not asked to enter a plea on 41 other charges, including 39 counts of manslaughter.

Robinson (25), from Co Armagh, was addressing a London court hearing from Belmarsh Prison a month after the 39 bodies were found in the truck on an industrial estate in Grays, Essex, about 30km east of London.

Thirty-one of the victims were men or boys, and eight were women.

The oldest was 44 and three were aged under 18, including two 15-year-old boys.

Gangs

Most were from Nghe An and Ha Tinh provinces in north-central Vietnam, where poor job prospects and other factors fuel migration.

Many poor people from Asia, the Middle East and Africa make dangerous journeys to western Europe in the hope of a better life, often after paying huge sums to criminal gangs.

Prosecutor William Emlyn Jones told yesterday's hearing at the Old Bailey criminal court that it was likely to be a "large and complex" case.

Robinson admitted having conspired with others between May 1 last year and last October 24 to commit an offence of assisting unlawful immigration and to acquiring cash that he knew or suspected came from criminal conduct.

No trial date was set, and Robinson is next due in court on December 13.

The container lorry in which 39 people were found dead
The container lorry in which 39 people were found dead

Another man from Northern Ireland, 23-year-old Christopher Kennedy, also from Co Armagh, appeared at a separate hearing yesterday, charged with conspiring to arrange the travel of people with a view to their exploitation, and with conspiracy to break immigration laws.

His case was also adjourned to the Old Bailey until December 13.

A third suspect, Eamon Harrison (22), from Co Down, has also been charged with 39 counts of manslaughter and human trafficking and immigration offences.

He was arrested at Dublin Port and the UK authorities have started proceedings to extradite him.

Police in Vietnam have arrested 10 people in connection with the deaths.

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