Essex lorry deaths: Ronan Hughes, Eamonn Harrison and Maurice Robinson jailed over deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants
Four people-smugglers have been jailed for the manslaughter of 39 migrants, who suffered an "excruciating" death in an airtight trailer.
The victims, Vietnamese men, woman and children, had hoped for a better life in Britain when they agreed to pay up to £13,000 a head for a "VIP" smuggling service.
On October 22 2019, they were crammed into a lorry container to be shipped from Zeebrugge to Purfleet in Essex in pitch black and sweltering conditions.
The Old Bailey in London heard how they desperately tried to raise the alarm as they ran out of air before reaching British shores.
The migrants, two aged just 15, were found dead by lorry driver Maurice Robinson who collected the trailer from the docks early the next morning.
Robinson (26) of Craigavon, and his boss Ronan Hughes (41) of Armagh, had admitted plotting to people smuggle and 39 counts of manslaughter.
Hughes's partner in crime Gheorghe Nica (43) of Basildon, Essex, and Eamonn Harrison (24) of County Down, who had collected the victims on the continent, were found guilty of the offences.
On Friday, Robinson, who also admitted money-laundering, was jailed for 13 years and four months in jail, Hughes was sentenced to 20 years in prison, Nica to 27 years and Harrison to 18 years.
Mr Justice Sweeney said: "I have no doubt that, as asserted by the prosecution, the conspiracy was a sophisticated, long running, and profitable one to smuggle mainly Vietnamese migrants across the channel."
The migrants had desperately tried to break out of the trailer and raise the alarm before they suffered an "excruciatingly slow death", the judge said.
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