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Charlie Cavey – The Busker in the bin

Charlie Cavey with the famous binTilly Palmer

“What came first, the chicken or the egg?” has puzzled humans for generations, but even more puzzling is finding yourself, on a Wednesday afternoon on King’s Parade, asking a man who has just stepped out of a trash can after you’ve frantically waved at him through a tiny slot: “What came first, the busking or the bin?”

Charlie Cavey has become an iconic figure to the Cambridge community for years – yet he remains relatively unknown. Unlatching the bin from the inside to climb out, Cavey reveals himself as a sunburnt man in a pink Hawaiian shirt. He tells me he was going to get a coffee and returns with a domestic-style pink china mug. It seems that this randomness is integral to his character. “This must be about my twenty-first or twenty-second summer, and it all started because I was working for myself, punting on the quayside. I was on the quayside touting, and a bin lorry pulled up next to us, and he (the driver) went over to the bin. He reached in and opened it up and took the bin out and was emptying it in his lorry. I looked at this empty bin and thought ‘I think I could fit in there,’ and that’s pretty much what happened. He put the bin back, shut the bin and I said to my friend ‘watch this’ and reached in, found the latch and opened it. I couldn’t play the guitar at the time. I learnt it the following winter and so the following summer when we all got back and started punting again, I showed my friend a few songs and he said ‘why don’t you try and do that in your bin?’ I said it was logistically impossible, and he said ’no feed the neck of the guitar through the hole, and hey presto that’s it twenty years later.”

“I looked at this empty bin and thought ’I think I could fit in there”

A fixture well documented on social media and frequented by celebrities – Tyson Fury was seen singing along to Oasis[1] with him last summer – he explains that “people walk along, they hear the music, they look around confused and then they see the arms sticking out the bin and think ‘What?’ and then they take pictures.” But it’s not all plain sailing. The University hasn’t taken kindly to him in the past. A Tab article in 2016[2] called him ‘the worst thing about Cambridge’ and in 2012, students were reprimanded by colleges[3] for an incident involving stink bombs and bleach being thrown into the bin. Interestingly, Cavey seems to be one of the only buskers in central Cambridge that isn’t using an amplifier. I ask cautiously about his opinion of the university students, rightly expecting a negative response, but Cavey tells me “nine-nine point nine percent of it has been absolutely positive. If a busker played the same thirty or so songs outside my bedroom window, and it’s not just a bedroom, it’s like their flat, it’s their bedsit – for a year, I would understand, I can completely empathise with their annoyance. Sadly their reactions have let them down, but it’s only a handful. And it’s really only going to be these guys who live here. And it’s alright, it happens, it’s merely a lack of ability to communicate on their part.”

I ask him what’s changed over the years, if reactions and song choices have evolved, but he is most frustrated about the evolution of bin design. He used to busk by on Bridge Street and pick which one to play in at random, “I used to use them all along that street, it didn’t matter, it depended on how I felt that day. Then one day I turned up and they were moving them all. They were replacing them, I don’t know how long you’ve been here but before they were aluminium they were fibreglass and so I had to buy my own.”

The last twenty years have witnessed a series of bins and music, but Cavey’s career does not consist of just busking: “for the last four years before lockdown I ran a kids music club called Mr Baboon’s Dancing Tunes and I’ve managed to find a proper job Monday to Friday now at the school where my kids attend.” Cavey seems incredibly content with his lifestyle; he’s not interested in releasing music or changing careers anytime soon. “I started to realise how much fun it really is, because I’m forty-two and just through wisdom and having lots of other jobs I’ve kind of realised that this is one of the nicest ways to live, the money might be less but the lifestyle is better. Because I get out of bed when I want, I start when I want…I don’t answer to anybody and I get to play music and make people happy which is pretty ideal for me.”

“I’ve kind of realised that this is one of the nicest ways to live, the money might be less but the lifestyle is better”

I ask if this lifestyle is a heavily communal one, if there is camaraderie or competition between the buskers. He’s not massively involved: “because I’ve got two children of my own, I come into town, busk and go home. I know a few of them, though having seen them and liked what they’d done and gone over and introduced myself. But maybe three or four, there probably is a nice community and there are a lot, you’ll see a lot more a lot closer to summer.”

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist…Ruyi Rix

His laid back attitude is admirable, and a career in busking seems to never afford a dull moment. In fact, he’s met Bob Geldof, Carol Vorderman, Gregory Porter. Crowds of people take an interest in his unusual busking format and remember him for summers to come, partly because of the unusual format of the bin, but also because it is clear that this is someone who does what they love, however eccentric. Love him or hate him, he’ll never know anyway, in his continual unflappable way he tells me,“I turned the news off eight or nine years ago. I hear everything from mouth, it makes it a much nicer world.”

References

  1. ^ Tyson Fury was seen singing along to Oasis (www.cambridge-news.co.uk)
  2. ^ A Tab article in 2016 (thetab.com)
  3. ^ students were reprimanded by colleges (www.huffingtonpost.co.uk)

‘I’m no hero’, says M62 trucker who helped save man on motorway

The truck driver hailed a hero[1] after parking his vehicle under a bridge on the M62[2] to stop a man from jumping has said ‘I’m not the hero of this story’.

Tom Birkett, 35, received praise from across the nation[3] after a picture showing his truck trailer parked directly underneath the man sat on the edge of the bridge went viral.

The man’s mother, who did not wish to be named, has since spoken out to let Tom know how grateful she is[4] as she is convinced he saved her son, who had been struggling with his mental health. She also said that he is now receiving help.

But Tom’s refuses to believe he is a hero, instead praising the police for the way they handled the situation.

READ MORE: Greater Manchester’s latest coronavirus infection rates[5]

Speaking to Leeds Live[6], the husband and father of three said: “All I did was park the truck under the bridge.

“This is something that the police and charities are deal with. I got an opportunity to do my little bit but it was 0.01 per cent of what other people did.

“I basically figured out something I could do, I did my good deed for the day. The police are the ones that saved him.

“I’m not the hero of this story, I’m happy with being called a Good Samaritan.”

Recalling how the events unfolded, Tom said spotted three people on the bridge from a distance and felt that “something was not right”.

As he got closer, he noticed that one person was on the wrong side of the bars and saw his legs dangling off the bridge.

Tom, from Kendal, Cumbria, quickly moved into the hard shoulder and put on his hazard lights to alert other road users.

After parking the trailer which has a soft top, he let officers who were at the scene know what he had done.

Helplines and websites

Samaritans (116 123) samaritans.org operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at [email protected][7] , write to Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, STIRLING, FK8 2SA and visit www.samaritans.org/branches to find your nearest branch.

For support for people feeling suicidal, if you are concerned about someone or if you are bereaved by suicide see http://shiningalightonsuicide.org.uk[8]

CALM (0800 58 58 58) thecalmzone.net has a helpline is for men who are down or have hit a wall for any reason, who need to talk or find information and support. They’re open 5pm to midnight, 365 days a year.

Greater Manchester Bereavement Service Greater Manchester Bereavement Service can help to find support for anyone in Greater Manchester that has been bereaved or affected by a death. No one needs to feel alone as they deal with their grief. www.greater-manchester-bereavement-service.org.uk[9]

Childline (0800 1111 ) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won’t show up on your phone bill.

PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.

Beat Eating Disorders: Beat provides helplines for adults and young people offering support and information about eating disorders. These helplines are free to call from all phones. Adult Helpline: 0808 801 0677, Studentline: 0808 801 0811, Youthline: 0808 801 0711. www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk[10]

Anorexia & Bulimia Care: ABC provide on-going care, emotional support and practical guidance for anyone affected by eating disorders, those struggling personally and parents, families and friends. Helpline: 03000 11 12 13. www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk/[11]

Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts. Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying studentsagainstdepression.org[12]

For information and links to charities and organisations that can help with substance abuse, visit https://www.supportline.org.uk/problems/drugs/[13]

Tom, who was speaking to his friend on the phone during his journey on Junction 9 on the M62, said: “I clocked him, I had seen something not right from a distance, obviously as a truck driver you’re looking way ahead of everyone else.

“I had seen three people on the bridge and I just knew something didn’t seem right. Something seemed off, the spacing of the people – you see truck spotters on bridges.

“As I was getting closer. I saw the person in the middle on the wrong side of the bars sat down with legs dangling on the motorway. The two police on the other side, that’s what I could see. I just said to my mate, I think he’s going to jump, I’m going to have to go.

“I just did what I did.

“That was it, I walked up to the other side of the embankment and told the officers what I had done.

“I was sat for two hours just talking to the police.”

Asked if he had a message for the man, Tom, who runs a Trucking YouTube page called Except for Access[14], added: “All I can say is I wish him the best and he gets through it.

“I’ve never quite been as bad as the position he was in but I know that helplessness though. Many people have felt that helplessness but not many people like to admit it.”

References

  1. ^ hailed a hero (www.leeds-live.co.uk)
  2. ^ M62 (www.leeds-live.co.uk)
  3. ^ praise from across the nation (www.leeds-live.co.uk)
  4. ^ how grateful she is (www.examinerlive.co.uk)
  5. ^ Greater Manchester’s latest coronavirus infection rates (www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk)
  6. ^ Leeds Live (www.leeds-live.co.uk)
  7. ^ [email protected] (www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk)
  8. ^ http://shiningalightonsuicide.org.uk (t.co)
  9. ^ www.greater-manchester-bereavement-service.org.uk (www.greater-manchester-bereavement-service.org.uk)
  10. ^ www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk (www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk)
  11. ^ www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk/ (www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk)
  12. ^ studentsagainstdepression.org (www.google.com)
  13. ^ https://www.supportline.org.uk/problems/drugs/ (www.supportline.org.uk)
  14. ^ Except for Access (www.youtube.com)

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)

‘Granite-gate’: Two men at centre of UTG row in £1m court battle

© Alastair Gossip/DCT MediaA lorry loads the AWOL granite from Union Terrace Gardens onto a Graeme Cheyne flatbed van.
A lorry loads the wayward granite from Union Terrace Gardens onto a Graeme Cheyne flatbed van on Mike Wilson’s land.

Bedford warehouse staff find Romanian stowaway kitten trapped in hot lorry

A severely dehydrated kitten is lucky to be alive after enduring baking temperatures trapped in the back of a furniture lorry for nearly a week as it travelled from Romania to the UK.

The tiny four-week-old stowaway needed intensive care and intravenous fluids after being found by warehouse staff in Bedford[1]

The kitten was rescued by Cats Protection volunteers and will spend three months in government-mandated quarantine.

The tiny four-week-old stowaway needed intensive care and intravenous fluidsThe tiny four-week-old stowaway needed intensive care and intravenous fluids

The tiny four-week-old stowaway needed intensive care and intravenous fluids

The black and white puss – named Roman by his rescuers – arrived in a truck from Eastern Europe and was only discovered when warehouse staff in Marsh Leys, Bedford, opened the doors to unload a delivery of furniture.

On hearing his cries for help, workers clambered carefully over boxes to trace the source and uncovered a tiny sick kitten, weak and frightened.

She said: “It was clear that this poor kitten was in a bad way and needed urgent help so I grabbed a cat carrier and drove to the depot.

The kitten was rescued by Cats Protection volunteersThe kitten was rescued by Cats Protection volunteers
The kitten was rescued by Cats Protection volunteers

“I asked them to check the truck for a mother cat or any other kittens, but there was only this one.

“It was a sad sight. The poor little thing was in a bad way. His eyes were stuck together and he was very weak.

“How he even had the strength to cry surprised me, but that was a good sign. He’s a little fighter and we knew what we had to do.

“We’ll never know Roman’s story or how he became trapped in the truck, but he probably snuck in looking for somewhere cosy to sleep and the next thing he was crossing borders in rising summer temperatures.

Roman was trapped in the back of a furniture lorry for nearly a week as it travelled from Romania to the UKRoman was trapped in the back of a furniture lorry for nearly a week as it travelled from Romania to the UK
Roman was trapped in the back of a furniture lorry for nearly a week as it travelled from Romania to the UK

“He must have been very hot, frightened and desperately thirsty. It’s a miracle he survived at all in this weather.”

Tamsin carefully picked up the kitten and drove to a local vet who saw that he was undernourished, dehydrated and needed eye treatment.

As the cat had entered the country undetected and without paperwork or microchipping, Cats Protection contacted Trading Standards at Bedford Borough Council, as is procedure with stowaway cats.

After being treated and made ready for transport, Roman was transferred to a DEFRA-approved quarantine cattery where he will stay for up to three months, sponsored by Cats Protection.

Roman is lucky to be aliveRoman is lucky to be alive
Roman is lucky to be alive

At around 12 weeks, he will be given a rabies vaccine before being transferred back to Cats Protection three weeks later for rehoming by the Bedford and Biggleswade Branch.

The cost of such treatment is high so volunteers at the Cats Protection branch have launched a JustGiving page – Roman’s Route to Happiness Appeal[2] – to raise money to cover the £1,600 bill.

Naomi Williams, Cats Protection’s field veterinary officer, said: “When Roman first presented to the vet at Scott Veterinary Clinic he was found to be underweight and severely dehydrated.

“He was also showing symptoms of cat flu with swollen, inflamed eyes and lots of discharge that prevented him from being able to open them until they had been bathed by the nursing team.

“Roman was admitted to the vets for intravenous fluids and intensive supportive care, which included antibiotics and lots of TLC.

“Thankfully, he responded really well to the treatments and was well enough to be transferred to the quarantine cattery the following week.

“As Roman is still very young the staff at the quarantine facility will continue to provide all the extra attention he needs, including a kitten socialisation programme to ensure he grows into a happy, confident cat.”

References

  1. ^ Bedford (www.bedfordtoday.co.uk)
  2. ^ Roman’s Route to Happiness Appeal (www.justgiving.com)