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‘People smugglers’ accused of Essex lorry deaths ‘got too greedy’, court hears

Written by on 9 October 2020

The criminal gang allegedly responsible for the deaths of 39 Vietnamese people in a lorry in Essex last year “just got too greedy”, the Old Bailey has heard.

A failed attempt to smuggle 20 people into the UK on 18 October 2019 meant that the gang decided to “double up”, prosecutor Bill Emlyn Jones told the jury.

“Why did this trip go so terribly wrong when on other occasions the migrants were safely unloaded and driven away?” he asked.

“This time the criminals just got too greedy, at GBP10,000 a head.

“This time they simply had too many people on board, too many people loaded into a single lorry trailer. We suggest that they were under pressure to double up.

“Were they doing two loads in one? Is that what has caused these deaths?”

Anna Bui Thi Nhung (left), Nguyen Dinh Tu (centre) and Tra My, all from Vietnam, were among the victims

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

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Jurors have heard how the victims were sealed in the pitch black unit in temperatures of 38.5C (101.3F) for 12 hours.

Four alleged people smugglers are on trial at the Old Bailey.

Alleged key player Gheorghe Nica 43, of Basildon, Essex, and lorry driver Eamonn Harrison, 23, of Mayobridge, County Down, Northern Ireland, who allegedly transported the migrants to the ferry at Zeebrugge, deny 39 counts of manslaughter.

They are accused with another lorry driver Christopher Kennedy, 24, of County Armagh, Northern Ireland, and Valentin Calota 37, of Birmingham, of being part of a wider people-smuggling operation, which Nica has admitted.

The trial continues.