Two convicted of manslaughter after 39 found dead in Essex lorry

Two men have been found guilty of manslaughter after a lorry-load of migrants were found dead after being suffocated in a sealed container.

The bodies of 39 Vietnamese nationals, including some children, were found in the back of a lorry last October in an industrial park in Grays, Essex.

Eamonn Harrison and Gheorghe Nica stood trial accused of the manslaughter of the migrants, who were transported in a container that reached a searing 38.5C at points.

The Old Bailey heard that the victims – men, women and children aged 15-44 – travelled in the “unbearable” temperature for at least 12 hours.

They had each paid more than £10,000 to be smuggled into Britain and had tried to contact loved ones as they slowly died in the pitch black lorry, Sky News reported.

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After a two-month trial, Harrison was found guilty of 39 counts of manslaughter while Nica was convicted for the same charges.

Another two defendants, Christopher Kennedy and Valentin Calota, were both found guilty of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Lorry driver Maurice Robinson, who had picked up the lorry in Purfleet, Essex, and haulage boss Ronan Hughes had previously admitted the manslaughter of the migrants.

Robinson discovered the bodies after he collected the trailer. He had previously received a Snapchat message from Hughes that said: “Give them air quickly, don’t let them out”.

Robinson replied with the "thumbs up" emoji.

The Vietnamese nationals are thought to have clambered aboard the lorry in northern France, before being driven to Zeebrugge in Belgium.

From there they were loaded on to a ship that docked at Purfleet, before they were driven the final short stretch to Grays where their lifeless corpses were found.

The group of desperate migrants included graduates, nail bar workers and hairdressers.

Robinson called Hughes and Nica once he found the bodies on October 22 and then, 23 minutes later, he called 999.

According to Sky News, Harrison, 23, denied having knowledge that there were people in his trailer having successfully carried out two previous smuggling trips. He insisted he thought he was handling stolen goods.

Nica, 43, admitted arranging onward transport on two previous occasions but denied being involved on the fatal night.

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