Today, Essex Police pay tribute to 39 people – men, women, and children – who lost their lives last October, and send our deepest condolences to their families.
A man has admitted his part in the deaths of 39 Vietnamese nationals at the Old Bailey today, Friday 28 August.
Their investigation was launched on 23 October 2019, following the tragic discovery in a lorry trailer in Grays just after 1.40am.
Earlier this afternoon, Ronan Hughes pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of those onboard.
Hughes, 40 of Tyholland in County Monaghan, also pleaded guilty to one count of facilitating the illegal entry of people into the UK.
A Tottenham man, 42-year-old Gazmir Nuzi of Barclay Road, has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
Chief Constable for Essex Police, Ben-Julian Harrington, acknowledged that the result was a step in the right direction for the ongoing investigation: “Last October, just a few days after the tragedy, I wrote in the book of condolence that we would do everything in our power to bring to justice those who were responsible for their horrific journey, which ended on our shores.
“We are still working hard to keep that promise to the families and our thoughts are with them following today’s pleas.”
Detective Chief Inspector Daniel Stoten, the Senior Investigating Officer for the case, said: “Echoing the Chief’s sentiments, my thoughts today are with the loved ones of the victims.
“Since the tragic discovery in the early hours of 23 October, some 1,300 people have worked together to try and ascertain what happened in that trailer, and the events leading up to the tragedy.
“These guilty pleas are welcomed, and I hope they offer some solace to the families of the victims. A lot of dedication and hard work has gone into this case, and there’s still a way to go, but we will not give up.”
In April this year, 25-year-old Maurice Robinson pleaded guilty to 39 counts of manslaughter at the same court. The Craigavon man has previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property.
In June, 28-year-old Alexandru Hanga, of Hobart Road in Tilbury, pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
They will all be sentenced at a later date.
Four men will await a trial at the Old Bailey this October in connection with our investigation.
Eamonn Harrison, a 23-year-old lorry driver from Mayobridge in Northern Ireland, and 43-year-old Gheorghe Nica of Mimosa Close in Langdon Hills today pleaded not guilty to 39 counts of manslaughter and one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration. Nica also pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to traffic people.
Christopher Kennedy, 23, of Corkley Road in Darkley, County Armagh, who has been charged with conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of people with a view to exploitation and conspiracy to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK immigration law.
They will be joined by Valentin Calota, 37, of Cossingham Road in Birmingham, who has been charged with conspiring to do an act to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK immigration law by a non-EU person.
The trial will begin on Monday 5 October.