‘Global ring’ behind 39 UK truck deaths, court told – Financial Times

A “global ring” of people smugglers was behind the attempt to bring 39 people into the UK who were found dead[1] in the back of a truck in Essex last week, a court was told on Monday. The allegation was made by the prosecution in the first court appearance of Maurice Robinson, known as Mo — the only person so far charged[2] in connection with the deaths. Mr Robinson was arrested shortly after the discovery of the bodies of eight women and 31 men in the back of the refrigerated trailer that he had driven on to an industrial park near Grays in Essex last Wednesday.

The 25-year-old from Craigavon, Northern Ireland, appeared by video link at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court where he spoke only to confirm his name, address and British nationality. He faces 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration. He was also charged with one count of acquiring criminal property and another of concealing criminal property between the same dates. 

“This involves a global ring facilitating the movement of a large number of immigrants into the UK,” prosecutor Ogheneruona Iguyovwe told the court. Mr Robinson did not apply for bail and was remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey, London’s central criminal court, on November 25. 

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Saturday, 26 October, 2019

Three other people arrested on Friday — a man and a woman, both 38 and from Warrington, and a 46-year-old man from Northern Ireland — on suspicion of manslaughter and people smuggling were released by police on bail on Sunday. Police in Dublin on Saturday arrested on a separate charge a man in his early 20s from Northern Ireland who Essex police have said is of interest to their inquiry.

Belgian newspapers reported over the weekend that prosecutors there believed the man drove the trailer to the port of Zeebrugge, from where it travelled unaccompanied to Purfleet, in Essex, a short distance from where the bodies were discovered.  The deaths have highlighted the significant risks facing migrants being smuggled through ports to reach the UK. Refrigerated trucks, like the one involved in the Essex case, can be used to defeat heat-seeking cameras[3] meant to detect people hidden inside.

Separately, Yvette Cooper, chair of the Commons home affairs select committee, said reports that eight people had been discovered in a refrigerated trailer at Calais, in northern France, over the weekend was “more disturbing evidence” of the dangerous trafficking and smuggling that was putting people at risk.  Ms Cooper said checks had discovered the people at Calais but there had been no such checks at Zeebrugge on the trailer involved in the Essex deaths. There were “real questions” about the lack of sufficient checks at ports other than the main gateways of Dover and Calais, Ms Cooper said. 

“The Home Office needs to tell us what it is doing to increase checks on refrigerated lorries in all ports, and also to set out what it is doing to work with Europol and European police forces,” she said.

Additional reporting by Reuters and Press Association

References

  1. ^ found dead (www.ft.com)
  2. ^ charged (www.ft.com)
  3. ^ defeat heat-seeking cameras (www.ft.com)

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