Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 28 September 2020

Lorry driver charged with manslaughter of 39 migrants appears in UK court

Maurice Robinson from Northern Ireland was arrested shortly after the eight women and 31 men were found dead in a refrigerated trailer

Court sketch of Maurice Robinson, 25, on a video link at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court in England. PA via AP
Court sketch of Maurice Robinson, 25, on a video link at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court in England. PA via AP

A lorry driver, charged with the manslaughter of 39 migrants found dead in the refrigerated trailer being towed by his cab in the southern UK county of Essex, has appeared in court.

Maurice Robinson, 25, from Northern Ireland, was remanded in custody at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on Monday where he appeared on a video link.

Earlier, Mr Robinson was charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering. He will appear at London’s Old Bailey on November 25.

Four other people, including a man arrested at Dublin Port on Saturday, are being held in connection with the deaths which have shocked Britain. The bodies of eight women and 31 men – including one teenager – were discovered in Mr Robinson’s Scania cab in an industrial park in Gray’s, Essex in the early hours of October 23.

The deaths have highlighted the extent of deadly people smuggling networks operating across Europe as migrants hope to reach Britain and other western European nations from around the globe.

British leader Boris Johnson and the country’s interior minister Priti Patel on Monday visited Thurrock Civic Offices to pay their respects to those who died in the lorry trailer. The pair laid wreaths and signed a book of condolence.

“The whole nation and indeed the world has been shocked by this tragedy and the cruelty of the fate that has been suffered by innocent people who were hoping for a better life in this country,” Mr Johnson wrote in the book.

“In condemning the callousness of those responsible for this crime we in the government of the United Kingdom resolve to do everything in our power to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Mr Johnson added.

The BBC reported that it had been in contact with six Vietnamese families who are afraid that their relatives are among the dead, with some having the trafficking fees they paid to smugglers refunded following the tragedy.

It is not yet known when the victims entered the trailer or the exact route it travelled. Officials in Belgium confirmed that the trailer arrived at the Port of Zeebrugge on the afternoon of October 22 and left the same day for the UK.

The trailer arrived at Purfleet in Essex at around 12.30am local time on 23 October, and was picked up by Mr Robinson’s cab, which arrived from Northern Ireland through Holyhead in north Wales days earlier.

Updated: October 30, 2019 01:38 PM

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