Grays lorry deaths: Accused ‘attempted two loads in one’

THIRTY-nine people may have died in the back of a lorry because people smugglers got “greedy” and attempted “two loads in one”, a court has heard reports the BBC. 

The Vietnamese nationals, aged between 15 and 44, suffocated as they were transported from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Purfleet on 23 October last year.

Jurors were told there had been identical and successful trips with fewer people on 11 and 18 October.

Four men are on trial at the Old Bailey in connection with the deaths.

Prosecutor Bill Emlyn Jones said the journey turned to tragedy because the smugglers, who were being paid £10,000 per person, got “too greedy”.

He suggested they may have been “under pressure to double up” after 20 migrants were removed from a lorry driven by Christopher Kennedy, one of those on trial, on 14 October near Eurotunnel in France. 

The bodies were discovered in the lorry in the early hours of 23 October 2019

The court has heard how the 39 victims had been sealed in the pitch black unit in “unbearable” 38.5C heat for 12 hours.

Mr Emlyn Jones told jurors: “It may well have crossed your minds – why did this trip go so terribly wrong, when on the other occasions the migrants survived the trip and were safely unloaded?

“You may well conclude that on this occasion the criminals just got too greedy, at £10,000 a head.

“They had too many people loaded into a single lorry.”

At least two of the migrants discovered in Mr Kennedy’s lorry on 14 October were found dead in the trailer at an Essex industrial estate nine days later.

During the mid-afternoon ferry crossing on 22 October, oxygen started to run out inside the trailer and the temperature was rising into the thirties.

Some of the people in the trailer tried to make phone calls but could not get a signal.

A port worker who drove the unaccompanied trailer off the ship just after midnight noticed a pungent smell “similar to waste”, the court heard.

Gheorge Nica, 43, of Basildon, Essex, and Eamonn Harrison, 23, of Mayobridge, Co Down, Northern Ireland, deny 39 counts of manslaughter.

Mr Harrison, Mr Kennedy, 24, of Co Armagh, Northern Ireland and Valentin Calota 37, of Birmingham, deny being part of a wider people-smuggling operation, which Mr Nica has admitted.

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