Trial begins of men accused of people-smuggling after 39 Vietnamese migrants were found dead

Men ‘who were members of international people-smuggling ring’ stand trial over deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants found in back of refrigerated lorry

  • Eamonn Harrison, 23, and Gheorghe Nice, 43, are accused of killing migrants 
  • Christopher Kennedy and Valentin Calota are ‘part of international ferrying ring’ 
  • All four suspects have denied everything they are accused of 

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Men accused of being members of an ‘international people-smuggling ring’ have gone on trial in connection with the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants in the back of a refrigerated lorry. 

Irish truck driver Eamonn Harrison (pictured), 23, and British-Romanian Gheorghe Nica, 43, are accused of killing eight women, two boys and 29 men on October 23 

Irish truck driver Eamonn Harrison, 23, and British-Romanian Gheorghe Nica, 43, are accused of killing eight women, two boys and 29 men on October 23.

Christopher Kennedy, 24, and Valentin Calota, 37, who was absent from today’s hearing, are said to have been linked to an international ring ferrying non-EU citizens into the UK.

Prosecutors claim Harrison drove the trailer to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge before it sailed to Purfleet in Essex and the bodies were found near the Dartford Crossing.

Bald and Nica appeared dressed in a dark shirt and trousers alongside Harrison, wearing glasses and a purple shirt, before Mr Justice Sweeney.

Kennedy was produced via video-link from a separate courtroom flanked by Serco guards in order to maintain social distancing measures as all three spoke only to confirm their details.

Calota was unable to attend the hearing due to a medical appointment and the court heard the swearing in of the jury will take place on Wednesday when all four defendants are present. 

Harrison, from Mayobridge, County Down, denies 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Trial begins of men accused of people-smuggling after 39 Vietnamese migrants were found dead

Christopher Kennedy (pictured), 24, and Valentin Calota, 37, who was absent from today’s hearing, are said to have been linked to an international ring ferrying non-EU citizens into the UK

Trial begins of men accused of people-smuggling after 39 Vietnamese migrants were found dead

Prosecutors claim Harrison drove the trailer to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge before it sailed to Purfleet in Essex and the bodies were found near the Dartford Crossing (pictured, the truck which carried the migrants)

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

Trial begins of men accused of people-smuggling after 39 Vietnamese migrants were found dead

Ronan Hughes (pictured), 40, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter of Vietnamese migrants who were found dead in a lorry container in Essex

Kennedy, of Corkley Road, Northern Ireland, denies conspiring to commit human trafficking and assisting unlawful immigration between 1 May 2018 and 24 October 2019.

Calota, of Cossington Road, Birmingham, denies conspiring to smuggle non-EU nationals into the UK, contrary to immigration law, between May 1 2018 and October 24 2019. 

However, in August a haulier admitted killing the migrants who died in the back of the lorry.  

Ronan Hughes, 40, was part of an international ring ferrying non-EU citizens into the country.

He pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to the manslaughter of eight women, two boys and 29 who were found in the back of a truck driven by Maurice Robinson, 25, in an industrial estate near Grays, Essex. 

Trial begins of men accused of people-smuggling after 39 Vietnamese migrants were found dead Trial begins of men accused of people-smuggling after 39 Vietnamese migrants were found dead

Pham Tra My, 26, has been confirmed as among the 39 people who died in a lorry in Essex

Trial begins of men accused of people-smuggling after 39 Vietnamese migrants were found dead Trial begins of men accused of people-smuggling after 39 Vietnamese migrants were found dead

Fifteen-year-old Nguyen Huy Hung (left) was the youngest of the group, 10 of whom were teenagers. Nguyen Dinh Lurong, 20, (right) was also named among those who died

Trial begins of men accused of people-smuggling after 39 Vietnamese migrants were found dead

The victims were were from five provinces in the central, coastal area of Vietnam and two provinces near Hanoi

Hughes also admitted conspiracy to assist in unlawful immigration.

He appeared in the dock alongside Eamonn Harrison, 23.

The 23-year-old was arrested at Dublin Port as he returned from France last 26 October before the pair were extradited from the Republic of Ireland. 

Their trial is due to start on Wednesday. 

Who were the 39 people who died in the Esssex lorry container? 

These are the names of the victims of the Essex truck tragedy are: 

 Pham Thi Tra My, a 26-year-old woman from Ha Tinh

Nguyen Dinh Lurong, a 20-year-old man from Ha Tinh

Nguyen Huy Phong, a 35-year-old man from Ha Tinh

Vo Nhan Du, a 19-year-old man from Ha Tinh

Tran Manh Hung, a 37-year-old man from Ha Tinh

Tran Khanh Tho, a 18-year-old man from Ha Tinh

Vo Van Linh, a 25-year-old man from Ha Tinh

Nguyen Van Nhan, a 33-year-old man from Ha Tinh

Bui Phan Thang, a 37-year-old man from Ha Tinh

Nguyen Huy Hung, a 15-year-old boy from Ha Tinh

Tran Thi Tho, a 21-year-old woman from Nghe An

Bui Thi Nhung, a 19-year-old woman from Nghe An

Vo Ngoc Nam, a 28-year-old man from Nghe An

Nguyen Dinh Tu, a 26-year-old man from Nghe An

Le Van Ha, a 30-year-old man from Nghe An

Tran Thi Ngoc, a 19-year-old woman from Nghe An

Nguyen Van Hung, a 33-year-old man from Nghe An

Hoang Van Tiep, a 18-year-old man from Nghe An

Cao Tien Dung, a 37-year-old man from Nghe An

Cao Huy Thanh, a 33-year-old man from Nghe An

Tran Thi Mai Nhung, a 18-year-old woman from Nghe An

Nguyen Minh Quang, a 20-year-old man from Nghe An

Le Trong Thanh, a 44-year-old man from Dien Chau

Pham Thi Ngoc Oanh, a 28-year-old woman from Nghe An

Hoang Van Hoi, a 24-year-old man from Nghe An

Nguyen Tho Tuan, a 25-year-old man from Nghe An

Dang Huu Tuyen, a 22-year-old man from Nghe An

Nguyen Trong Thai, a 26-year-old man from Nghe An

Nguyen Van Hiep, a 24-year-old man from Nghe An

Nguyen Thi Van, a 35-year-old woman from Nghe An

Tran Hai Loc, a 35-year-old man from Nghe An

Duong Minh Tuan, a 27-year-old man from Quang Binh

Nguyen Ngoc Ha, a 32-year-old man from Quang Binh

Nguyen Tien Dung, a 33-year-old man from Quang, Binh

Phan Thi Thanh, a 41-year-old woman from Hai Phong

Nguyen Ba Vu Hung, a 34-year-old man from Thua Tien Hue

Dinh Dinh Thai Quyen, a 18-year-old man from Hai Phong

Tran Ngoc Hieu, a 17-year-old boy from Hai Duong

Dinh Dinh Binh, a 15-year-old boy from Hai Phong

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