Man to appear in court on Monday over Essex lorry deaths

UK news[1]

Christopher Kennedy, arrested in early hours of Friday, faces human trafficking charges




The industrial park in Grays, Essex, after the 39 bodies were found. A second man is also expected to appear in court on Monday.Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

A man from Northern Ireland is to appear in court on human trafficking charges linked to the deaths of 39 people in a refrigerated lorry in Essex. Christopher Kennedy, from Darkley, County Armagh, was arrested in the early hours of Friday morning on the M40.

The 23-year-old, who will appear before Chelmsford magistrates court on Monday, faces changes of conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of people with a view to exploitation and conspiracy to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK immigration law. Kennedy’s arrest comes after it emerged that one of the people found dead in the trailer in an industrial park in Grays had gone missing from an asylum centre in the Netherlands. The country’s Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers told Dutch media that the teenager had run away from a shelter for vulnerable immigrants.

The agency would not give details about the name or age of the teenager. Ten teenagers, including two 15-year-old boys, were among those whose bodies were discovered in the early hours of 23 October, shortly after the lorry arrived on a ferry from Zeebrugge in Belgium. All were Vietnamese nationals.

The driver, Maurice Robinson, 25, from Northern Ireland, is expected to appear at the Old Bailey in London on Monday charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering. Extradition proceedings have begun in Ireland to bring Eamonn Harrison, 22, from Mayobridge in Newry, County Down, to the UK. He appeared at Dublin’s central criminal court on Thursday after he was arrested on a European arrest warrant.

Detectives have also urged Ronan Hughes, 40, and his brother Christopher, 34, who are originally from County Armagh, Northern Ireland, to hand themselves in. The brothers are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking, and have links with the road haulage and shipping industries. Last weekend an Irish Sunday tabloid revealed that Ronan Hughes had been living openly at his home in County Monaghan in the Irish Republic.

The Garda Siochana cannot arrest or question him or his brother until Essex police issue a European arrest warrant, which if successful would enable the force to extradite them to the UK. On Friday, Ireland’s justice minister, Charlie Flanagan, called for strengthened security at Irish ports to combat human trafficking. Last Thursday 16 were found in a sealed truck on a ferry sailing from the French port of Cherbourg to Rosslare, south-east Ireland.

The 16, who include two minors and are believed to be of Kurdish origin from Iran and Iraq, claimed asylum in Ireland after being discovered.

Flanagan said Ireland and Britain needed to cooperate more to curb the “scourge of human trafficking” and expressed concern that Ireland was seen by people smugglers as a backdoor to Britain.

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