LONDON: Two people were found guilty of manslaughter and smuggling on Monday over the shocking finding last year in England of 39 dead Vietnamese migrants in the back of a lorry.
Since suffocating in sweltering conditions, the remains of the men and women were discovered inside a sealed container outside London in October 2019.
Lorry driver Eamonn Harrison, 24, from Northern Ireland, and Gheorghe Nica, 43, a Romanian national, were found guilty by a London court of 39 counts of manslaughter. It is predicted that they will be convicted early in January.
Christopher Kennedy, 24, and Valentin Calota, 38, were both sentenced during a 10-week trial for their role in the smuggling activity.
In a lucrative smuggling ring which investigators claimed had been motivated by greed, all four were found guilty of their positions.
Home Secretary (Interior Minister) Priti Patel said the judgement on Monday had inspired her to “do everything I can to go after the smugglers of people who are preying on the vulnerable and trade in human misery.”
“I am committed to bringing callous smugglers to justice and keeping our communities safe from the actions of horrific organised crime groups.” The arrests of Monday carry to eight the overall number found guilty in the UK in connection with the crime.
Prosecutors are seeking charges against a further three persons.
Maurice Robinson, 26, who picked up the container and found the bodies, had already pleaded guilty to 39 counts of murder and conspiracy to smuggle people.
39 manslaughter charges have also been accepted by Haulage business chief Ronan Hughes, 41. After being locked inside the container for at least 12 hours, in unbearably high temperatures, the corpses were found at the southeastern English port of Purfleet.
It would have taken about nine hours for the environment to become poisonous in the trailer, a forensic specialist estimated, with death following shortly after. The victims were all aged from 15 to 44.
Prosecutors said the Vietnamese stuck were unable to get a phone signal inside the container whose cooling system was shut off.
Cell phones retrieved from the bodies of the 39 victims revealed that when they rushed out of the air, they had attempted to lift the alarm and left messages for the relatives.
Others had used a metal pole, the court learned, to attempt to punch a hole in the roof to draw attention.
At the tribunal, when he first appeared at the scene and looked for signs of life, British police officer Jack Emerson described seeing the trailer “full of bodies.”
He said he was unable to verify that all those inside were still alive, since they were in the back of the truck “closely packed.”
The large and unscrupulous trafficking networks spanning the globe have been illustrated by the deaths of Vietnamese victims in the UK.
Many of them had come with their families from impoverished parts of Vietnam, and, like some, they had fallen into thousands of dollars of debt to smugglers to pay for the risky journeys.
Seven persons were arrested in Vietnam in September for varying degrees of complicity of prostitution in the central Ha Tinh province of the country.
Investigations in France and Belgium have since led to the arrest of hundreds of suspects after an investigation led by Eurojust, the EU law enforcement coordination body.