Essex lorry deaths: fifth charged over deaths of 39 Vietnamese people

UK news
This article is more than 1 month old
This article is more than 1 month old

Valentin Calota is accused of conspiring to smuggle non-EU nationals into the UK




Ten teenagers were among the 39 people found dead in the container on an industrial estate in Essex.Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA

A fifth person has been charged by police in connection with the investigation into the deaths of 39 Vietnamese people in a refrigerated lorry in Essex last year. Valentin Calota appeared at Basildon magistrates court on charges of facilitating illegal immigration between May 2018 and October 2019. Ten teenagers were among the 39 people who were found dead in the lorry container on an industrial estate in Grays in Essex.

The youngest of the dead were two 15-year-old boys. Four other people have already been charged in the UK while an Irish lorry driver wanted for his alleged role is fighting his extradition from Dublin. In Vietnam, police have also charged seven people – including a Vietnamese woman living in China – in connection with the cross-border investigation.

Calota, of Cossington Road, Birmingham, was charged in the early hours of Monday, according to Essex police. He is accused of conspiring to smuggle non-EU nationals into the UK, contrary to immigration law, between 1 May 2018 and 24 October 2019. Detectives from Essex police believe a number of Vietnamese people may have come into the UK illegally through Purfleet in October, and are asking them to come forward to help with the investigation.

The assistant chief constable, Tim Smith, said earlier this month: “We understand that they may be concerned about coming forward and sharing their experiences, but we can assure you that your information and details will be treated in confidence.”

Eamonn Harrison, who is wanted in Britain on charges of human trafficking and immigration offences, as well as 39 counts of manslaughter, was granted permission by a judge in Dublin to appeal against his extradition to the UK.

The 23-year-old, from Mayobridge in County Down, Northern Ireland, is alleged to have driven a refrigerated container to the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium, and later signed the shipping notice for it.

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