|The vehicle containing the victims' bodies found at an industrial park in Grays, east of London in the UK, a year ago today. AFP/VNA Photo|
Two men have been found guilty of the manslaughter of 39 Vietnamese immigrants who suffocated in the back of a container unit last year.
After a 10-week trial at the Old Bailey in London, Romanian ringleader Gheorghe Nica, 43, and lorry driver Eamonn Harrison, 24, from Northern Ireland, were found guilty on Monday of 39 counts of manslaughter.
They could now face life imprisonment when they are sentenced for their crimes.
The bodies of the Vietnamese migrants, aged between 15 and 44, were discovered in the back of a trailer in Essex in the south of England in October last year.
The two men, along with haulier boss Ronan Hughes, 41, of Armagh, and 26-year-old lorry driver Maurice Robinson, of Craigavon, were also convicted for their part in the people-smuggling operation.
|The Old Bailey in London where the four men accused in connection with the deaths of 39 migrants were all found guilty. AFP Photo.|
Three of the victims’ families have spoken of their grief and their ongoing prayers for their loved ones. The sister of 22-year-old Dang Huu Tuyen paid tribute to her “angel” of a brother, saying he was a “gentle, loving and dedicated Catholic”.
The parents of 15-year-old Nguyen Huy Hung, one of the two youngest people onboard, recalled their son’s love of football and how “peaceful and smart” he was, as well as his drive to do well at school.
The young son of 42-year-old Phan Thi Thanh has written a poem for his mother called “Beloved Mommy!”.
Chief Constable of Essex Police, Ben Julian Harrington, said after the verdicts: “The men who were found guilty today made their money from misery.
“They knew what they were doing was wrong, but they didn’t care.
“They tried to hide what they were doing. They attempted to evade detection. They thought they could cover up their crimes.
“Today, they have been proved wrong on every count.
“Whilst I feel immense pride for the Essex Police teams, and our partners, for this diligent investigation, none of us will stop thinking of the victims and their families. Those family members are, in most cases, halfway across the world, and their lives will never be the same again.
“We will never forget those 39 victims – men, women, and children – who were sold the lie of safe passage to our country. The force made their loved ones a promise in the Book of Condolence shortly after the incident: that we would do everything in our power to bring those responsible for that horrific journey, which ended on our shores, to justice. Essex Police has worked hard to deliver on our promise, and I hope that is of some small comfort.”
Watch a Viet Nam News special report on the one-year anniversary of the tragedy.
Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Daniel Stoten, added: “This story started almost eight thousand miles away.
“Every man, woman and child, some as young as 15, who died in the lorry trailer was from Vietnam.
“They may have started their journeys at different times but, ultimately, they were all following the false promise of a new life. They put their trust in people they hoped would deliver them safely to our shores. As we all now know, sadly, that’s not how their journey ended.
“Family members and friends, many of whom are still thousands of miles away from where I stand today, have suffered an unimaginable loss. I know this because my team at Essex Police have heard their stories, and carefully recorded their testimony first-hand.
“Since our investigation started, on 23 October last year, more than 1,300 people have worked on this case. From the detectives, staff and volunteers at Essex Police, to other forces across the country, and national and international law enforcement, governments and embassies – this will be a case we will never forget.
“I’d like to speak directly to the families now: We are one step closer to getting you the justice you deserve. I know it won’t bring your loved ones back, but I hope it will offer some solace.
“Our thoughts are with you, today and always.”
Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said: “This was a truly tragic incident. While I’m pleased justice has been served, I know it will come as little comfort to the families of those who died. My thoughts remain with those affected by this tragedy.
“Today’s convictions only strengthen my resolve to do all I can to go after the people smugglers who prey on the vulnerable and trade in human misery. I’m determined to bring callous people smugglers to justice and keep our communities safe from the actions of horrendous organised crime groups.
“I want to thank all the agencies involved in this investigation, specifically Essex Police, the NCA, the Crown Prosecution Service and operational teams in the Home Office for their exemplary professionalism in pursuing convictions. We are fortunate to be served by such outstanding, committed officers, who help keep us safe and support those most in need.”
Russell Tyner, of the CPS Organised Crime Division, said: "This is an unimaginably tragic case. 39 vulnerable people desperate for a new life were driven to put their trust in a network of unscrupulous people smugglers and they suffered horrific consequences - not through their own fault but due to the sheer greed of others.
“They died through lack of oxygen, desperately trying to escape from the container. Some were able to express their last words to their families on their mobile phones when they knew their situation was hopeless.
“Nothing can bring back the lives lost on that day and the loss caused by the unlawful and dangerous actions taken by these defendants. But we hope that these convictions bring some measure of solace to their families that the perpetrators of these actions have faced justice. Our thoughts remain with them on what must be another painful day.
“The CPS hopes this terrible incident, and these convictions today, will send a real warning to anybody considering smuggling people into the UK in this way.”
The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, Roger Hirst, added: “The deaths of those people were an international tragedy that happened right here in our county. At the time I said we needed to come together as a community to help the police bring whoever was responsible to justice. We did just that and our force has done an outstanding job.
“On behalf of the people of Essex I would like to say thank you to each and every police officer, firefighter, paramedic, staff member and volunteer who was involved in this case beginning with the heart-breaking discovery of the crime, right through to catching those involved and bringing them before the courts.
“Nothing will ever bring those 39 people back, but I hope their families will be able to take some comfort from the fact that our emergency services treated them and their loved ones with the respect and compassion they deserved as well as working to get justice in their memories.”
The Director of Threat Leadership for the National Crime Agency (NCA), Rob Jones, said: “The organised criminal groups involved in immigration crime are callous and treat migrants as a commodity to be profited from. Their only motivation is money, they don’t care about the safety or consequences of their actions.
“Tragically in this case the consequences were fatal. I’m pleased that those responsible will now be held accountable for their actions. I hope this outcome brings some comfort to the families of those who died.
“NCA officers in the UK and overseas worked alongside Essex Police throughout this investigation, providing specialist support and assistance. Our international network provided a crucial link to Vietnam and other countries involved in the investigation as it widened.
“We will continue to lead the UK’s fight against organised immigration crime, and my message to those involved in this exploitative trade is simple - we are coming after you. We are using the full range of tools at our disposal to disrupt and dismantle people smuggling networks impacting the UK, no matter where in the world they operate.” VNS
Verdicts in full:
Eamonn Harrison, a 24-year-old lorry driver from Mayobridge in Northern Ireland, was found guilty of 39 counts of manslaughter and guilty of one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
Gheorghe Nica, 43, of Mimosa Close in Langdon Hills, was found guilty of the same charges.
Christopher Kennedy, 24, of Corkley Road in Darkley, County Armagh, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK immigration law.
While Valentin Calota, 38, of Cossingham Road in Birmingham, was found guilty of the same charge.
01 - Dinh Dinh Binh 15-year-old boy from Hai Phong
02 - Nguyen Minh Quang 20-year-old man from Nghe An
03 - Nguyen Huy Phong 35-year-old man from Ha Tinh
04 - Le Van Ha 30-year-old man from Nghe An
05 - Nguyen Van Hiep 24-year-old man from Nghe An
06 - Bui Phan Thang 37-year-old man from Ha Tinh
07 - Nguyen Van Hung 33-year-old man from Nghe An
08 - Nguyen Huy Hung 15-year-old boy from Ha Tinh
09 - Nguyen Tien Dung 33-year-old man from Quang Binh
10 - Pham Thi Tra My 26-year-old woman from Ha Tinh
11 - Tran Khanh Tho 18-year-old man from Ha Tinh
12 - Nguyen Van Nhan 33-year-old man from Ha Tinh
13 - Vo Ngoc Nam 28-year-old man from Nghe An
14 - Vo Van Linh 25-year-old man from Ha Tinh
15 - Nguyen Ba Vu Hung 34-year-old man from Thua Tien Hue
16 - Vo Nhan Du 19-year-old man from Ha Tinh
17 - Tran Hai Loc 35-year-old man from Nghe An
18 - Tran Manh Hung 37-year-old man from Ha Tinh
19 - Nguyen Thi Van 35-year-old woman from Nghe An
20 - Bui Thi Nhung 19-year-old woman from Nghe An
21 - Hoang Van Tiep 18-year-old man from Nghe An
22 - Tran Thi Ngoc 19-year-old woman from Nghe An
23 - Phan Thi Thanh 41-year-old woman from Hai Phong
24 - Tran Thi Tho 21-year-old woman from Nghe An
25 – Duong Minh Tuan 27-year-old man from Quang Binh
26 - Pham Thi Ngoc Oanh 28-year-old woman from Nghe An
27 - Tran Thi Mai Nhung 18-year-old woman from Nghe An
28 - Le Trong Thanh 44-year-old man from Dien Chau
29 - Nguyen Ngoc Ha 32-year-old man from Quang Binh
30 - Hoang Van Hoi 24-year-old man from Nghe An
31 - Tran Ngoc Hieu 17-year-old boy from Hai Duong
32 - Cao Tien Dung 37-year-old man from Nghe An
33 - Dinh Dinh Thai Quyen 18-year-old man from Hai Phong
34 - Dang Huu Tuyen 22-year-old man from Nghe An
35 - Nguyen Dinh Luong 20-year-old man from Ha Tinh
36 - Cao Huy Thanh 37-year-old man from Nghe An
37 - Nguyen Trong Thai 26-year-old man from Nghe An
38 - Nguyen Tho Tuan 25-year-old man from Nghe An
39 - Nguyen Dinh Tu 26-year-old man from Nghe An
This poem, ‘Beloved mommy!’, was crafted by the young son of Phan Thi Thanh. She was 41 years old and came from the Hai Phong Province.
The two beloved sounds
They’re amazingly sweet
Since I was born
That mommy’s form
Always by my side
Always guiding me the way
O time, please stop dripping away
Please slow down
So mommy’s always sound
And loving me
For the people who still have a mommy
Please don’t make her cry
Please love her, and be kind
It’s our mommy, my friend!
O my mommy
Love you, O how much I love you
Love you with all my heart
Love you with all my soul.
I love you mommy!