22 December 2020
Two men have been found guilty of the manslaughter of 39 people who suffocated to death in a lorry whislt being smuggled into the UK in October 2019. Two others were found guilty of conspiring to unlawfully smuggle people into the country, while the two ringleaders of the operation - which had been ongoing for years - pled guilty to manslaughter before trial.
UK: Essex lorry deaths: two found guilty over manslaughter of 39 Vietnamese people (The Guardian, link)
"The victims were 28 men, eight women and three children, two of them aged 15. When it became obvious there was insufficient oxygen they made desperate attempts to escape, and tried to call emergency services in Vietnam. As they began to die inside the dark container, where the temperature had risen to 38.5C, they recorded farewell messages for their relatives. They died of asphyxia and hyperthermia, or overheating.
The court heard that most of the Vietnamese people who wanted to travel to the UK were given instructions via Facebook Messenger and the messaging app Viber to meet at a flat in Paris. They were then taken on a five-hour taxi ride to Bierne, a village near Dunkirk, where they hid in a barn until Harrison arrived to collect them.
Harrison said he was told to take a walk, or have a nap in his cab while the loading happened. He said he was watching Netflix while the 39 were locked inside the container.
The prosecution argued that this was unlikely, and called “witness X” – a Vietnamese passenger who was smuggled to London on 10 October 2019 in a truck owned by Hughes – to give evidence. He told the court that the lorry driver had loaded him and the other migrants into the trailer."
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