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People smuggling suspect arrested over death of 39 Vietnamese migrants

People smuggling suspect wanted in connection with the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants found dead in the back of a lorry in Essex is arrested by the NCA at a supermarket petrol station in Middlesbrough

  • The Vietnamese national, who has not been named, was detained at a supermarket petrol station just off the A66 in Middlesbrough on Thursday
  • The man is wanted by Belgian authorities who allege he played a role in placing at least ten migrants inside the lorry where 39 migrants were found dead
  • The 39 Vietnamese migrants were found dead in a lorry in October 2019 in Essex

A suspected people smuggler wanted in connection with the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants found dead in the back of a lorry in Essex has been arrested by National Crime[2] Agency officers. 

The Vietnamese national, who has not been named, was detained at a supermarket petrol station just off the A66 in Middlesbrough at around 1pm on Thursday afternoon. 

The man is wanted by the Belgian authorities who allege he has played a key role in placing at least ten migrants inside the lorry where 39 people were found dead in October 2019, according to the NCA. 

They suspect he is a member of a people smuggling network which moves migrants through Belgium and France[3] and into the UK in the back of lorries.

The Vietnamese national, who has not been named, is wanted by the Belgian authorities who allege he has played a key role in placing at least ten migrants inside the lorry where 39 people died. Pictured: Police and Forensic officers inspecting the lorry at the Waterglade Park in Essex in October 2019

The Vietnamese national, who has not been named, is wanted by the Belgian authorities who allege he has played a key role in placing at least ten migrants inside the lorry where 39 people died. Pictured: Police and Forensic officers inspecting the lorry at the Waterglade Park in Essex in October 2019

The Vietnamese national, who has not been named, is wanted by the Belgian authorities who allege he has played a key role in placing at least ten migrants inside the lorry where 39 people died. Pictured: Police and Forensic officers inspecting the lorry at the Waterglade Park in Essex in October 2019

The man was detained at a supermarket petrol station just off the A66 in Middlesbrough at around 1pm on Thursday afternoon. Pictured: The lorry where 39 migrants were found dead in Essex

The man was detained at a supermarket petrol station just off the A66 in Middlesbrough at around 1pm on Thursday afternoon. Pictured: The lorry where 39 migrants were found dead in Essex

The man was detained at a supermarket petrol station just off the A66 in Middlesbrough at around 1pm on Thursday afternoon. Pictured: The lorry where 39 migrants were found dead in Essex

The man is suspected of running safe houses in Brussels where the migrants stayed before their fatal journey as well as organising their onward transport in taxis to a collection point in France where they were put in the back of a sealed refrigerated lorry.   

The arrest comes just days after Italian police said on Saturday they had arrested Romanian citizen Stefan Damian Dragos who allegedly provided the lorry where the 39 migrants were found.   

There was no immediate statement from the suspect or from any lawyer representing him. He was arrested in the town of Cinisello Balsamo, north of Milan, but police gave no further details.

The Vietnamese national who was arrested today was tracked down by NCA investigators to Middlesbrough. A Belgian investigating magistrate has issued a warrant for his arrest in December after suspecting he had fled to the UK.      

The man will now appear before Westminster Magistrates where extradition proceedings will begin.

Inside were the bodies of 28 men, eight women and three children (pictured) who died 'excruciatingly slow' deaths while at sea as temperatures inside soared to 38.5C

Inside were the bodies of 28 men, eight women and three children (pictured) who died 'excruciatingly slow' deaths while at sea as temperatures inside soared to 38.5C

Inside were the bodies of 28 men, eight women and three children (pictured) who died ‘excruciatingly slow’ deaths while at sea as temperatures inside soared to 38.5C

The NCA’s Head of Organised Immigration Crime Operations, Miles Bonfield, said: ‘This is another significant arrest in terms of the identifying those involved in the events which led to the tragic deaths of those 39 migrants.

‘The individual detained today is suspected by the Belgian authorities of having played a key role in placing at least ten migrants inside that lorry.

‘Working closely with partners in the UK, Europe and beyond we are determined to do all we can to get justice for the families of those who died, and disrupt and dismantle the cruel organised criminal networks involved in people smuggling.’

In April, another Vietnamese national who is accused of being a key ‘organiser’ in the fatal smuggling operation lost his appeal against extradition. 

Ngo Sy Tai, also known as Hung Sy Truong, was arrested in December last year by NCA in Redditch, Worcestershire, on a European Arrest Warrant.

He is wanted in Belgium over allegations he ran a so-called ‘safe house’ for his fellow Vietnamese nationals in Anderlecht, Brussels. 

Following his arrest, Ngo appealed the decision that he should be extradited, but District Judge Mark Jabbitt refused the appeal in April.  

Ngo Sy Tai, pictured right, was arrested in Redditch, Worcestershire, on a European Arrest Warrant in connection with the deaths of Vietnamese migrants. In April, he lost an appeal against his extradition to Belgium

Ngo Sy Tai, pictured right, was arrested in Redditch, Worcestershire, on a European Arrest Warrant in connection with the deaths of Vietnamese migrants. In April, he lost an appeal against his extradition to Belgium

Ngo Sy Tai, pictured right, was arrested in Redditch, Worcestershire, on a European Arrest Warrant in connection with the deaths of Vietnamese migrants. In April, he lost an appeal against his extradition to Belgium

In January this year, four men were jailed for a total of 78 years for killing the 39 Vietnamese migrants by bringing them into the UK in a sealed lorry.  

Drivers Eamonn Harrison, 23, and Maurice Robinson, 26 – together with Romanian fixer Gheorghe Nica, 43 – were paid by Ronan Hughes, 40, to ferry non-EU citizens into the UK. 

Hughes headed the million-pound people-smuggling ring which used death trap lorries on multiple occasions – charging his human cargo up to £14,000 a head for a ‘VIP’ service.

But the journey in October 2019 went horribly wrong when driver Robinson opened the back of his refrigerated trailer in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, to be met with a gush of steam – and 39 bodies.

Hughes was jailed for 20 years, while fixer Nica – who arranged transport from Essex to London for the foreign nationals – was sentenced to 27.

Robinson was handed a 13-year and four-month sentence, while Harrison – who dropped off the trailer in Zeebrugge before it was sailed to Britain – was jailed for 18 years.   

Ronan Hughes, 40, (pictured) headed the million-pound people-smuggling ring which used death trap lorries on multiple occasions - charging his human cargo £14,000 a head

Ronan Hughes, 40, (pictured) headed the million-pound people-smuggling ring which used death trap lorries on multiple occasions - charging his human cargo £14,000 a head

But the journey in October 2019 went horribly wrong when driver Maurice Robinson, 26, (pictured) opened the back of his refrigerated trailer in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, to be met with a gush of steam - and 39 bodies.

But the journey in October 2019 went horribly wrong when driver Maurice Robinson, 26, (pictured) opened the back of his refrigerated trailer in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, to be met with a gush of steam - and 39 bodies.

Ronan Hughes, 40, (left) headed the million-pound people-smuggling ring which used death trap lorries on multiple occasions – charging his human cargo £14,000 a head. But the journey in October 2019 went horribly wrong when driver Maurice Robinson, 26, (right) opened the back of his refrigerated trailer in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, to be met with a gush of steam – and 39 bodies.

Driver Eamonn Harrison, 23, (pictured) - who dropped off the trailer in Zeebrugge before it was sailed to Britain - was jailed for 18 years

Driver Eamonn Harrison, 23, (pictured) - who dropped off the trailer in Zeebrugge before it was sailed to Britain - was jailed for 18 years

Eamonn Harrison

Eamonn Harrison

Driver Eamonn Harrison, 23, (pictured) – who dropped off the trailer in Zeebrugge before it was sailed to Britain – was jailed for 18 years

Romanian fixer Gheorghe Nica, 43, who arranged transport from Essex to London for the foreign nationals - was sentenced to 27

Romanian fixer Gheorghe Nica, 43, who arranged transport from Essex to London for the foreign nationals - was sentenced to 27

Alexandru Hanga, 28, from Essex, has been jailed for three years for conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Alexandru Hanga, 28, from Essex, has been jailed for three years for conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Romanian fixer Gheorghe Nica, 43, (left) who arranged transport from Essex to London for the foreign nationals, was sentenced to 27 years.  Alexandru Hanga, 28, from Essex, (right) has been jailed for three years for conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Christopher Kennedy, 24, from County Armagh, has been jailed for seven years

Christopher Kennedy, 24, from County Armagh, has been jailed for seven years

Valentin Calota, 37, from Birmingham, has been jailed for four and a half years

Valentin Calota, 37, from Birmingham, has been jailed for four and a half years

Christopher Kennedy, 24, from County Armagh, (left) has been jailed for seven years and Valentin Calota, 37, from Birmingham,  has been jailed for four and a half years – both guilty of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

CCTV shows police arriving at the scene where Robinson had found the bodies in the back of his lorry (top right)

CCTV shows police arriving at the scene where Robinson had found the bodies in the back of his lorry (top right)

CCTV shows police arriving at the scene where Robinson had found the bodies in the back of his lorry (top right)

Mr Justice Sweeney said in January: ‘I have no doubt that, as asserted by the prosecution, the conspiracy was a sophisticated, long running, and profitable one to smuggle mainly Vietnamese migrants across the channel.’ 

During the trial, jurors saw horrifying footage of steam gushing from the container as Robinson opened the doors after pulling up in Eastern Avenue, Grays, at 1.13am on October 23, 2019. 

Inside were the bodies of 28 men, eight women and three children who died ‘excruciatingly slow’ deaths while at sea as temperatures inside soared to 38.5C.

Had they arrived safely the smugglers would have made £800,000 for the journey, the court heard.

Instead of calling the police upon his discovery, Robinson called Hughes.

Kingpin Hughes told him to ‘open the doors, give them air’ but Robinson fired back, saying: ‘I can’t, they’re f****** dead.’

He waited more than 20 minutes to make the 999 call after opening the doors to see the victims half-naked having suffocated to death in ‘unbearable’ temperatures. 

The final moments of the dying victims as they gasped for air and cried for help were also played during the trial at London’s Old Bailey.

A photo showing pole marks inside the lorry trailer after migrants attempted to make air holes shortly before they suffocated

A photo showing pole marks inside the lorry trailer after migrants attempted to make air holes shortly before they suffocated

A photo showing pole marks inside the lorry trailer after migrants attempted to make air holes shortly before they suffocated

Video played to the court showed the moment officers arrived on scene in Essex and (inset) body cam footage shows an officer looking for signs of life inside the lorry. Driver Maurice Robinson called 999 after discovering the bodies in his lorry

Video played to the court showed the moment officers arrived on scene in Essex and (inset) body cam footage shows an officer looking for signs of life inside the lorry. Driver Maurice Robinson called 999 after discovering the bodies in his lorry

Video played to the court showed the moment officers arrived on scene in Essex and (inset) body cam footage shows an officer looking for signs of life inside the lorry. Driver Maurice Robinson called 999 after discovering the bodies in his lorry

Romanian fixer Gheorghe Nica, 43, (pictured) - who arranged transport from Essex to London for the foreign nationals - was sentenced to 27

Romanian fixer Gheorghe Nica, 43, (pictured) - who arranged transport from Essex to London for the foreign nationals - was sentenced to 27

 Gheorghe Nica in a shop purchasing a mobile phone top-up

Nguyen Tho Tuan taped a harrowing final message for his family at 7.37pm. 

The 25-year-old said: ‘It’s Tuan. I am sorry. I cannot take care of you. I am sorry. I am sorry. I cannot breathe. I want to come back to my family. Have a good life.’

Just before 7pm, another victim, Nguyen Dinh Luong, 20, had desperately tried to call Vietnamese emergency services, dialling 133, but phone signal in the trailer had cut out. 

Another male victim recorded a message at 8.02pm apologising to his parents and telling them: ‘I have to go.’

A voice in the background can be heard trying to reassure their compatriots, saying: ‘Come on everyone, open up, and open up.’

A graphic used by Essex Police illustrating location of the 39 bodies found inside a container lorry in Grays, Essex

A graphic used by Essex Police illustrating location of the 39 bodies found inside a container lorry in Grays, Essex

A graphic used by Essex Police illustrating location of the 39 bodies found inside a container lorry in Grays, Essex

At 1.07am, Robinson collected the trailer, some 12 hours after it was sealed. He was instructed by Hughes via Snapchat to 'give them air quickly don't let them out'.

At 1.07am, Robinson collected the trailer, some 12 hours after it was sealed. He was instructed by Hughes via Snapchat to 'give them air quickly don't let them out'.

At 1.07am, Robinson collected the trailer, some 12 hours after it was sealed. He was instructed by Hughes via Snapchat to ‘give them air quickly don’t let them out’.

Speaking outside the Old Bailey DCI Daniel Stoten (pictured) - who led the Essex police investigation - said: 'I welcome today's sentences'

Speaking outside the Old Bailey DCI Daniel Stoten (pictured) - who led the Essex police investigation - said: 'I welcome today's sentences'

Speaking outside the Old Bailey DCI Daniel Stoten (pictured) – who led the Essex police investigation – said: ‘I welcome today’s sentences’

Moments later, another victim said: ‘He’s dead.’

The original tape, which captures the bravery of the migrants as they realised they were dying, was played before prosecutor Jonathan Polnay who translated the messages.

Who has been convicted in the Essex lorry death case? 

Eamonn Harrison, 23

  • Guilty of 39 counts of manslaughter
  • Guilty of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Gheorghe Nica, 43

  • Guilty of 39 counts of manslaughter
  • Admits conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Valentin Calota, 37

  • Guilty of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Christopher Kennedy, 24

  • Guilty of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Maurice Robinson, 26

  • Admits 39 counts of manslaughter
  • Admits conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Ronan Hughes, 41

  • Admits 39 counts of manslaughter 
  • Admits conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration
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Translating the first recording Mr Polnay said: ”I’m so sorry’ – that’s him speaking to his wife and his child – ‘I’m sorry’ – that’s to his mother – ‘I’m sorry’ – and that’s addressed to his whole family. ‘I cannot breathe. I want to come back to my family. Have a good life.”

Referring to the second message Mr Polnay said: ‘He says I can’t breathe, he says his name, I’m sorry to his parents, I have to go. It’s all my fault.

‘And a voice in his the background says: ‘Come on everyone, open up and open up.” 

Driver Eamonn Harrison and fixer Gheorghe Nica were earlier convicted of 39 counts of manslaughter. 

Robinson also admitted 39 counts of manslaughter while Harrison was found guilty of  39 counts of manslaughter and of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Fellow gang members lorry drivers Christopher Kennedy, 24, from County Armagh, and Valentin Calota, 38, from Birmingham – who were not involved in the October 2019 tragedy – were found guilty of assisting illegal immigration by an Old Bailey jury. 

Gazmir Nuzi, 42, and Alexandru Hanga, 28, from Essex, both admitted one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration last year. 

Their involvement described as relating to a single occasion in each case – prior to the October 22 tragedy.  

Robinson, Hughes, Nica and Harrison sat in a row in the main dock while Kennedy, Calota and Hanga appeared virtually from another courtroom in the building during the sentencing in January. Nuzi did not appear. 

The judge said in January the victims had died ‘excruciatingly slow’ deaths at sea, before they reached Purfleet.

Kingpin Hughes hung his head as he was spared a life sentence.

Timeline of the Essex lorry tragedy 

Here is a timeline of events surrounding the deaths of 39 Vietnamese men, women and children in the back of a lorry in Essex.

  • May 9 2018: Eamonn Harrison is stopped at Coquelles in France driving a lorry into the Channel Tunnel. It is found to have 18 Vietnamese nationals hidden in the back sitting on boxes of waffles. He is issued with a fine which is never paid.
  • May 1 2019: Harrison is caught drink-driving in Drantum, Germany, after he lost control and his lorry toppled over. He is convicted and ordered to pay 855 euro.
  • October 9 2019: At 9.04pm, Harrison’s GPS tracker places his truck in La Chappelle d’Armentieres in northern France. He beds down for the night in Bailleul.
  • October 10: Harrison makes a series of stops in Nieppe, La Chapelle d’Armentieres and Lissewege before he delivers a human cargo to Zeebrugge in Belgium to be transported to Purfleet in Essex.
  • October 11: At 7am, the trailer containing the migrants is picked up in Purfleet by lorry driver Christopher Kennedy and taken to a drop-off point near Orsett Golf Club.
  • At 8.18am, Gheorghe Nica, Alexandru Hanga, Marius Draghici and Gazmir Nuzi are caught on CCTV allegedly arriving in convoy.
  • At 8.22am, Marie Andrews and Stewart Cox, who live on Collingwood Farm, Orsett, see a red lorry with a white trailer pull up, together with four black Mercedes vehicles. As they watched, 15 to 20 people jump out of the lorry and run to the Mercedes.
  • October 14: At 7.25am Kennedy travels from Dover to Calais with the same lorry, but a different trailer.
  • At 11.50pm, Kennedy is stopped at Coquelles, en route to Folkestone via the Eurotunnel. Twenty Vietnamese nationals are discovered in his trailer and taken away by the border authorities, but Kennedy is allowed to continue with his journey. It later transpires two of the migrants are among the victims.
  • October 17: Harrison makes a second successful run, dropping off a container load of migrants at Zeebrugge with a consignment of biscuits.
  • October 18: At 7.24am, Kennedy picks up the trailer and takes it to the same pick-up point at Orsett. Valentin Calota is one of the drivers brought by Nica to collect the new arrivals and drive them over the Dartford crossing and into south-east London.
  • In the afternoon, Barbara Richmond-Clarke, warehouse manager at Lenham Storage, in Kent, rejects the delivery of crushed and dirty biscuit boxes.
  • In the evening, haulier boss Ronan Hughes, lorry driver Maurice Robinson, Draghici and Nica – now carrying a heavy bag full of cash – meet at the Ibis Hotel in Thurrock.
  • At 9.53pm, Harrison is found drunk in Bruges, Belgium, and is stopped by police.
  • October 19: At 9.09am, police find Harrison’s truck has been parked illegally and ask him to move.
  • October 22: From 5.47am, five of the victims’ phones are used in Paris.
  • Around 9am, more are detected on the Belgian border between Dunkerque and Lille.
  • From 9.21am, CCTV shows three taxis arriving at Bierne, northern France, followed by Harrison’s lorry.
  • At 1.41pm Harrison’s lorry arrives at Zeebrugge port.
  • At 2.52pm, the trailer containing 39 people, aged between 15 and 44, is loaded onto the MV Clementine which sails late, at 3.36pm.
  • At 7.37 pm, young father Nguyen Tho Tuan records a message for his family saying: ‘It’s Tuan. I am sorry. I cannot take care of you. I am sorry. I am sorry. I cannot breathe. I want to come back to my family. Have a good life.’
  • Between 9.42pm and 10.42pm, the temperature in the trailer peaks at 38.5 Celsius.
  • Between 10pm and 10.30pm the atmosphere is estimated to have reached toxic levels, killing all 39 victims.
  • October 23: At 12.18am, the Clementine docks at Purfleet.
  • At 1.07am, Robinson collects the trailer, some 12 hours after it was sealed. He is instructed by Hughes via Snapchat to ‘give them air quickly don’t let them out’.
  • Robinson drives out of Purfleet, stops and opens the doors at the back. He stands for 90 seconds before getting back in the cab.
  • From 1.15 am, Robinson drives around for seven minutes before returning to the same location on Eastern Avenue. He opens the rear doors again, calls Hughes for one minutes and 42 seconds and takes a minute-long call from Nica.
  • Over 15 minutes, there is a flurry of telephone contact between Hughes, Robinson, Kennedy and Nica, who leaves the area of Collingwood Farm.
  • At 1.36am, Robinson telephones 999 and requests an ambulance.
  • At 1.50am, police arrived on the scene and find Robinson looking ‘calm’ by the trailer.
  • Later that morning, Kennedy tells a friend via text: ‘must have been 2 many and run out of air.’
  • Nica takes an evening flight from Luton to Romania.
  • October 24: Draghici flies to Bucharest, in Romania, and remains at large.
  • November 22: Kennedy is arrested after the lorry he is driving on the M40 in Oxfordshire is stopped.
  • February 7, 2020: Nica is extradited to the UK after being detained in Frankfurt under a European Arrest Warrant.
  • March 14: Calota is arrested on arrival at Birmingham airport from Romania.
  • April 8: Robinson pleads guilty at the Old Bailey to 39 counts of manslaughter.
  • June 23: Hughes is extradited from the Republic of Ireland to the UK and pleads guilty to the manslaughter in August.
  • July 22: Harrison is extradited to the UK having been detained at Dublin Port, Ireland, under European Arrest Warrant, on October 26 2019.
  • October 5: Nica and Harrison go on trial at the Old Bailey for manslaughter. Harrison, Calota and Kennedy are accused of being involved in a wider people-smuggling conspiracy, which Nica, Robinson, Hughes and two others have admitted.
  • December 21: they are convicted of manslaughter
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Wearing a Nike jacket and jeans for his sentencing, Nica showed no emotion when he was jailed for 27 years imprisonment.

Harrison, who was convicted of the 39 counts by a majority of 10-1, nodded as he was jailed for 18 years.

Mr Justice Sweeney said the offences did not ‘meet the criteria’ for life sentences because it was possible the killers had not known there was a serious risk of death.

The smugglers had been involved in the deadly trade for years despite repeated run-ins with the authorities.

Harrison was fined after he was stopped near Calais driving a lorry full of Vietnamese nationals in May 2018.

The people smuggler was caught in Coquelles with 18 migrants concealed in the back of his truck.

He didn’t even bother to pay the fine and continued ‘busily bringing illegal immigrants into the country’ along with his co-conspirators.

On October 14, 2019,  Kennedy was waved on by French border officials when he tried to smuggle two of the Vietnamese migrants who died weeks later in the tragedy.

The 20 foreign nationals in his trailer were taken away – but Kennedy was allowed to continue on his journey.

At least two of those on board were later suffocated to death when they tried again on 23 October.

Police had been tipped off about the Essex route since the summer of 2019 but had done nothing.

Resident Marie Andrews reported the people-smuggling drop to police three times after seeing a group of Vietnamese nationals jump out of a lorry outside her home two weeks before the tragedy.

She called the police after she and her partner Stewart Cox watched a lorry unload 15 to 20 non-EU citizens and tried to warn officers on 11 October.

Giving evidence, Ms Andrews said she had been calling emergency services about ‘dodgy’ activity at her home on Collingwood Farm near Orsett since the summer of 2019.

But she told the court officers ‘had not been listening.’

Harrison met the migrants at a rendezvous in Chemin-Noord Strate in France before driving them to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge.

From there, they sailed across the channel and were collected by Robinson at Purfleet.

They would be dropped off at a handover point on a remote farm near Orsett, from where Nica and his drivers – including Calota – drove them to their final destination in London by car.

Usually loads of around 15 to 20 migrants were taken to the Belgian border.

But after a botched run on 13 October the traffickers wanted to do two loads in one and crammed the container with 39 Vietnamese nationals.

Robinson knew something was wrong on the final leg of the route because he was sent a message on Snapchat by Hughes, reading: ‘Give them air quickly, but don’t let them out,’ to which he responded with a thumbs-up emoji.

The exchange happened at some point between midnight and 1.20am when he opened the container door and found the lifeless bodies piled up.

First he called Hughes and then Nica, waiting 23 minutes to contact the emergency services.

PC Jack Emerson, who attended the scene after the 999 call, said ‘At the back of the trailer I could see a 6ft white male standing at the rear of the trailer that I took as the driver.

‘He was just standing there, his demeanour appeared calm.

‘I could visibly see half naked bodies laying on the trailer floor laying motionless. It became apparent as I got closer that the entire trailer was full of bodies.

‘Most of the bodies were half naked.

‘Most of the bodies were wearing clothes on their lower half but not on their lower half.

‘All of the bodies appeared intact and it was my opinion they had not been there for a long time.

‘As I moved through the trailer I checked the bodies for pulse but couldn’t find one.

‘Because of how packed together the bodies were it was not possible to check every body.

‘I recall when checking some bodies some of them appeared to have been frothing from the mouth.’

Nica admitted assisting unlawful immigration at the start of the trial, but claimed he was no longer involved by the time tragedy struck on October 23.

The British-Romanian said he had agreed to smuggle people into the country previously because Hughes ‘came to England and asked him’ but then opted out on October 23.

He shared a ‘celebratory drink’ after a people-smuggling run on October 18 in the bar of the Ibis hotel in Thurrock with Robinson.

The four toasted the success of the operation before moving to Hughes’ suite upstairs where a cash handover took place.

Nica insisted he stopped his involvement in the runs after that, claiming he had only been in the country waiting to get British passports for his estranged wife and children.

He said he had been anxious to make money to pay for a rare medical treatment for his four-year-old daughter, who has cerebral palsy.

Kennedy and Calota claimed they unwittingly transported the migrants into the country.

But Kennedy accepted that he had helped Hughes ‘disguise’ evidence of human contamination after the October 18 run.

He told jurors he had been due to deliver a legitimate load of Mrs Crimble’s macaroons and Bakewell tarts to a warehouse in Maidstone, Kent, after the stowaways were left with Nica.

When he opened up the back doors the boxes were squashed and covered in footprints with ‘bags of p***’ discarded amongst the goods.

Calota insisting that he had ‘hearing problems’ and had been told to look ahead while Nica loaded the migrants into the back of his van at Collingwood Farm.

He said he had agreed to transport loads of smuggled cigarettes, but denied knowing migrants were in the back of his van during an hour-long journey down to London on the same date.

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

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

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

Harrison insisted he had no idea the Vietnamese nationals were in the container but claimed Hughes, put a price on his head after he crashed one of his trucks in Germany while drunk.

Their claims were rejected by the jury after 22 hours and 48 minutes of deliberation.

Unanimous guilty verdicts were reached for Nica and Kennedy while Harrison and Calota were convicted on each count by a majority of 10 to 1. 

Nica, of Mimosa Close, Langdon Hills, Basildon, Essex, denied but was convicted of 39 counts of manslaughter and one count of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration relating to the date of 23 October.

He admitted a further count of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration relating to the period before the tragedy and was jailed for 27 years. 

Speaking outside the Old Bailey in January DCI Daniel Stoten – who led the Essex police investigation – said: ‘I welcome today’s sentences.

‘These significant sentences are a reflection of the serious and organised nature of the crimes and of course the tragic circumstances of the case.

‘The quality of the evidence presented assured all the suspects faced justice including those who refused to admit their guilt.

‘Most significant of all of these was Gheorghe Nica, who told lie after lie after lie, in the most despicable manner.

‘The criminals in this case made their money from misery they knew what they were doing was dangerous but they did it anyway.

‘They treated them as commodities and they transported them in ways we would not transport animals.

‘I hope this sentence send a strong message to those involved in this type of crime and that message is we will find you, we will stop you and we will bring you to justice.

‘Two of the victims were just 15 years old. They died in the most unimaginable of ways. They died because of the utter greed of the people involved.

‘I hope today’s significant sentences bring some comfort to the families and friends of the victims it has been my pleasure to lead this investigation on their behalf.

‘As always the victims and their families are in my thoughts in our thoughts today and always.’       

References

  1. ^ Rachael Bunyan For Mailonline (www.dailymail.co.uk)
  2. ^ Crime (www.dailymail.co.uk)
  3. ^ France (www.dailymail.co.uk)

Boxer went from 2 years out of sport driving lorry for B&Q to becoming Olympian

Team GB’s Cheavon Clarke has been given more than enough signs that boxing possibly wasn’t for him – from almost dying twice to quitting the sport all together and becoming a lorry driver.

But against odds the 30-year-old, originally born in Jamaica before moving to South London[1], managed to climb to the top and recently punched his name on the ticket for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

On finally clinching his spot at this year’s delayed tournament, Cheavon told My London[2] he’s “more relieved than excited.”

“To be honest I’m just relieved. The job’s not done, when the job’s done I’ll be excited,” Cheavon said.

READ MORE: Senior Met Police Officer wins back job after tribunal rules sacking over child abuse clip was unfair[3]

Cheavon was driving lorries for a living before becoming a Team GB Olmypian
Cheavon was driving lorries for a living before becoming a Team GB Olmypian (Image: Cheavon Clarke)

The heavyweight boxer has his sight firmly fixed on a gold medal but four years ago Cheavon, known to his friends as Chev, was driving a lorry for a living.

Cheavon made a strong start in boxing and at the tender age of 18 years old he was winning championships.

A ruptured appendix months into his budding career which almost killed him couldn’t even stop the Jamaica-born fighter’s prospects.

After a six-month break he continued on a tear through the sport. Frustrating decisions against him and an unsuccessful trial for Team GB had the star contemplating his future in the sport, but he still couldn’t be stopped.

Cheavon competed at the 2014 Commonwealth Games representing Jamaica, but it was a surprising loss at the tournament that finally put his boxing career on pause.

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I lost and I shouldn’t have,” Cheavon said.

“To make it worse everyone was saying ‘that was terrible, I should have won that’ so I was like ‘I’m putting up the gloves’ and stopped boxing for two years.”

As one of the best young boxing talents in the UK, Cheavon put it on pause, taking a lorry driving job delivering to Homebase and B&Q.

During his hiatus between 2014 and 2016, the incoming Olympian said he “loved” his new job.

“I was making money,” Cheavon laughed.

Frustrated with boxing Cheavon stopped to be a lorry driver
Frustrated with boxing Cheavon stopped to be a lorry driver (Image: Cheavon Clarke)

He continued: “Up until December 2015 I didn’t train or do nothing. It was great, I loved lorry driving, any time boxing gets on my nerves, back in the lorry.

“I just go on what I feel, if I enjoy something I do it, I’m not a slave to my trade, I do what I enjoy. It was fun, it was really great.”

Cheavon said his friends constantly pestered him to get back into boxing during his time away and at the close of 2015 his coach, out of the blue, told him to prepare for a March bout.

Before he knew it Cheavon was back competing again at a high level picking up medals and finally landing a spot with Team GB where he competed at the European Championships winning a silver medal in 2017.

The boxer who only started boxing as a teenager looking for something to do in the summer, became Team GB’s number one fighter.

On his start in boxing Cheavon said: ” I used to play football and that was my thing, I was passionate differently about football, people said I should box because I would always be shadow boxing.

“It was one summer my friends were trying to convince me to go to a weights gym and I was like weights are pointless, it’s boring then I saw the boxing club down the road from me.

“So I tricked my friend into going with me.”

On his rise to the top Cheavon has crossed paths with the likes of Anthony Joshua, Rio Ferdinand and even Prince Charles.

The prospect of being a global boxing star along with other British fighters Joshua and Daniel Dubois doesn’t phase Cheavon, he’s focused on one goal.

“I know I can beat anybody in the world,” Cheavon said.

He continued: “Right now the focus is going to the Olympics and executing and performing.

“I don’t care about nothing else. They could offer me a million pounds, nope, Olympic medal.”

Theatre technician rescued from car smash after A9 drink drive accident

© Gordon CurrieCourtenay Drakos at Perth Sheriff Court
Courtenay Drakos at Perth Sheriff Court

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References

  1. ^ Sign in (www.thecourier.co.uk)

Gloucestershire is hotspot for this illegal motoring offence

Gloucestershire motorists are more likely to doctor their number plates to evade speed cameras than drivers anywhere else in the country.

According to a new survey the county is a hotspot for drivers carrying illegal modifications to their vehicles and has nearly twice as many number plate offences per head of population as the next place, Northern Ireland.

Doctoring plates is often done to avoid speed cameras and automatic number plate recognition but insurers say such illegal modifications might save you points on your licence but invalidate your insurance policy.

Read more: Lorry crashes through level crossing barrier[1].

A freedom of information request to police forces across the country by Comparethemarket.com[2] uncovered the shock data for last year.

In total there were 808 number plate offences in Gloucestershire, which worked out at 1,268 offences per million people.

The next worst area for number plates was Northern Ireland where police caught 1,301 drivers, 687 per million people.

But offenders could be in for a shock because a new law going through the House of Commons could mean a clampdown on those who use fake designs to stop the cameras getting the information.

Conservative MP Andrew Griffith wants to close a loophole in the law which he believes allows anti-social road users to “defy” speeding rules by making the number impossible for cameras to read. This offence carries a fine but no points.

But although Gloucestershire motorists were more likely to be caught with illegal plates, they did not score as badly as many others for noisy exhausts, illegally tinted windows and the wrong lights

Overall there were a total of 925 illegal modifications caught by police in Gloucestershire , which works out at 1,452 per million people.

But in the East of the country, officers were much more likely to prosecute over lights, windows and exhausts.

Get all your local traffic news, powered by In Your Area[3]:

Dan Hutson, head of motor insurance at comparethemarket.com said: ” Modifications tend to fall into two categories: performance or cosmetic, but any modification, no matter how minor, should be reported to your car insurance provider.

“Lawful modifications can increase car insurance premiums, so it’s best to check with your provider before making any changes and there are some providers who specialise in modified cars.

“Modifications which are against the law are likely to invalidate any type of car insurance policy, so do your research beforehand.”

References

  1. ^ Lorry crashes through level crossing barrier (www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk)
  2. ^ Comparethemarket.com (www.comparethemarket.com)
  3. ^ In Your Area (www.inyourarea.co.uk)

Highway 401 in Kingston closed after 2 transport trucks collide: OPP

A section of Highway 401 near Kingston is closed Wednesday morning after two transport trucks collided, OPP say.
© OPP The eastbound lanes of Highway 401 near Highway 15 in Kingston are closed after a transport caught fire following a collision with a…

Cairnryan border post to cost taxpayers £30m to build and operate

Plans for the ‘inland border facilities’ are required following Brexit, with the trade deal with the European Union requiring customs checks on various products such as high risk foods and animals.

The border post, which is yet to have a finalised location, will cost £30m to build and to get up and running, according to a new government contract made public on Monday on Public Contracts Scotland.

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The need for the border post was described as a “direct result” of the “reckless approach to Brexit” by the UK Government[1] the Scottish Greens said, with the Scottish Government claiming the bill would be met by the UK Government.

A lorry boards the Larne to Cairnryan P&O European Highlander ferry at Larne Port. At Cairnryan, plans for a border post are set to cost £30m.A lorry boards the Larne to Cairnryan P&O European Highlander ferry at Larne Port. At Cairnryan, plans for a border post are set to cost £30m.

A lorry boards the Larne to Cairnryan P&O European Highlander ferry at Larne Port. At Cairnryan, plans for a border post are set to cost £30m.

Read More

Read More

Alister Jack promises ‘safeguards’ for Scottish food and drink over Brexit trade…

[2]

Around 400,000 freight vehicles and 400,000 cars travel through the two ports at Cairnryan, operated by Stena Line and P&O Ferries, with links to Belfast and Larne in Northern Ireland.

Concerns about large delays at the ports were raised before the agreement of a trade deal between the EU and the UK in late 2020, with plans agreed to use a nearby airfield as a lorry park if delays at the ports became unmanageable.

The airfield, which is used by light aircraft and was a former RAF base, is owned by the crossbench peer the Earl of Stair at Castle Kennedy and was the location of the temporary lorry park until it was stood down due to low usage.

The location of the more permanent structure, which will be operational for at least five years, is yet to be confirmed, but the airfield is likely to be considered a leading contender.

The former home of the ferry terminal in Stranraer is the preferred location for the border post by Dumfries and Galloway Council and was viewed as an opportunity to redevelop the derelict site, which was left vacant in 2011 when the ports moved seven miles north to Cairnryan.

Reacting to the cost, Scottish Greens co-leader and Europe spokesperson Patrick Harvie said: “The need for this border control post is a direct result of the Tories reckless approach to Brexit and their contempt for the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

“There would be no need for this facility had we stayed in the EU, as voted for by the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland, or even in the single market as Boris Johnson and other Brexiteers said before the referendum.

“The UK Government should be able to take ownership of their own failures and foot the bill for this facility.”

The contract, publicly available on Public Contracts Scotland, states the border post will be “much more” than inspection or warehouse facilities and must comply with strict biosecurity measures and be able to handle a wide variety of vehicle sizes and goods.

It states: “Scottish ministers are responsible for the enforcement of checks on animals, plants, plant products, product of animal origin and high risk foods not of animal origin in Scotland and require an IBF close to the ferry terminals at Cairnryan and Loch Ryan … a major port of entry to Scotland from the island of Ireland.

“In most cases port operators provide the necessary infrastructure. However, the ferry terminals at Cairnryan do not have the physical space to accommodate additional facilities and so, in accordance with the UK Border Operating Model, it is for government to provide facilities at an inland site.

“It is anticipated that the facility will be operational for at least five years and it is Scottish ministers’ intention to award the operation and maintenance contracts to cover the full five-year duration.”

The £30m contract will cover the cost of construction of the border post as an “entirely new structure”, alongside the provision of electricity, plumbing, waste removal and cleaning services, as well as security, traffic marshalling and logistics.

Responding, a Scottish Government spokesperson said a number of potential sites were still being considered for the border post, with the cost of the border post to be paid for by the UK Government.

He said: “As a consequence of the hard Brexit deal negotiated by the UK Government, the Scottish Government now has to establish facilities in the Loch Ryan area to inspect animals, plants, food and feed – for which responsibility is devolved – arriving in Scotland from the Republic of Ireland and the wider EU via Northern Ireland.

“A number of potential sites are currently being considered.

“The figure published provides an indication to potential suppliers as to the value of contracts that may be tendered for as the project progresses.

“Scottish ministers have been assured that UK Government will honour its commitment that costs associated with Brexit will be met by the UK Government.”

An HMRC spokesperson said: “HMRC is exploring the need for an inland border facility in Scotland.

“Should there be a need, we will work closely with our partners in Scottish Government to identify a suitable site and streamline customs facilities where possible.”

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