Essex lorry deaths: Ronan Hughes admits manslaughter

A man has admitted manslaughter after the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants found in a lorry container in Essex. The men, women and children were discovered in a refrigerated trailer on 23 October in Grays. Haulier Ronan Hughes, 40, of Tyholland, County Monaghan, admitted manslaughter and conspiring to assist unlawful immigration at the Old Bailey.

A second man, Eamonn Harrison, 23, of Mayobridge, County Down, denied 39 charges of manslaughter. Mr Harrison also pleaded not guilty to conspiring to assist unlawful immigration and faces a trial in October. Hughes, whose conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration charge spanned 1 May 2018 to 24 October 2019, was described as “a ringleader of a people smuggling ring”.

His address in court was given as in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. The bodies of the Vietnamese nationals were discovered at an industrial estate soon after the lorry arrived in the UK on a ferry from Zeebrugge in Belgium.

Ten teenagers, two of them 15-year-old boys, were among the dead. An inquest heard their medical cause of death was asphyxia and hyperthermia.

Also on Friday, Gazmir Nuzi, 42, of Barclay Road, Tottenham, north London, pleaded guilty to a single charge of assisting unlawful immigration on or before 11 October 2019 and 18 April 2020. Earlier this year, lorry driver Maurice Robinson, 25, of Craigavon, County Armagh, pleaded guilty to 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration. Mr Harrison now faces a trial expected to last five weeks starting on 5 October with three others.

Gheorghe Nica, 43, of Langdon Hills, Basildon, Essex, denies 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Valentin Calota, 37, of Birmingham, and Christopher Kennedy, 23, of County Armagh, Northern Ireland, have each denied conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

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