Driver pleads guilty to manslaughter of 39 people found dead in truck in Essex

Police escort a cargo truck in which 39 people were found dead in an industrial park in Essex, the United Kingdom. [Photo/Agencies]

A truck driver has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 39 people who were found dead in the back of a refrigerated container.

The bodies of the Vietnamese nationals were discovered at an industrial estate in Essex after the truck arrived in the United Kingdom on a ferry from Zeebrugge in Belgium on Oct 23 last year.

Among the men, women and children killed were 10 teenagers, two of them 15-year-old boys.

Maurice Robinson, 25, of Craigavon, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, had previously admitted conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property.

At the hearing on Wednesday, the truck driver also admitted 39 counts of manslaughter on or before Oct 24 last year.

Robinson denied a further charge of transferring criminal property. The 25-year-old and four others appeared at the Old Baily via video link.

Gheorghe Nica, 43, of Langdon Hills, denied 39 counts of manslaughter and also denied one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration between May 1, 2018 and Oct 24, 2019.

Alexandru-Ovidiu Hanga, 27, of Tilbury, denied a charge of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Christopher Kennedy, 23, of Darkley, County Armagh, has previously denied conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Valentin Calota, 37, from Birmingham, was not asked to enter a plea to the charge of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration.

Prosecutor William Emlyn Jones said a human trafficking conspiracy charge was being dropped in relation to Kennedy and Robinson, PA Media reported.

He asked for three weeks to decide whether to proceed with a trial against Robinson on the outstanding charge he faced.

The other defendants face a trial at the Old Bailey lasting up to eight weeks from Oct 5.

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