Police forensic teams examine the lorry where the bodies of 39 Vietnamese were discovered in October, 2019. Photo AFP.
ESSEX - A man told a court in the United Kingdom he was responsible for the deaths of 39 Vietnamese citizens who perished in the back of a lorry last year after they were smuggled into England.
Ronan Hughes pleaded guilty at the Old Baily courts in London on Friday to the manslaughter of those onboard.
Hughes, 40 of Tyholland in County Monaghan, Northern Ireland, also pleaded guilty to one count of facilitating the illegal entry of people into the UK.
After admitting his guilt, police in Essex sent a message of condolence to the families of those who lost their lives.
Ronan Hughes from Northern Ireland has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 39 Vietnamese citizens. Photo: Essex Police.
Police also revealed that 1,300 members of their team have been working on the investigation for the past 10 months.
Chief Constable for Essex Police, Ben-Julian Harrington, acknowledged that the guilty plea by Hughes was a step in the right direction for the ongoing investigation.
He said: “Last October, just a few days after the tragedy, I wrote in the book of condolence that we would do everything in our power to bring to justice those who were responsible for their horrific journey, which ended on our shores.
“We are still working hard to keep that promise to the families and our thoughts are with them following today’s pleas.”
Ben-Julian Harrington, Chief Constable of Essex Police, has offered his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. Photo Essex Police.
Detective Chief Inspector Daniel Stoten, the Senior Investigating Officer for the case, added: “Echoing the Chief’s sentiments, my thoughts today are with the loved ones of the victims.
“Since the tragic discovery in the early hours of 23 October, some 1,300 people have worked together to try and ascertain what happened in that trailer, and the events leading up to the tragedy.
“These guilty pleas are welcomed, and I hope they offer some solace to the families of the victims. A lot of dedication and hard work has gone into this case, and there’s still a way to go, but we will not give up.”
The grim discovery was made on October 23rd last year when the dead bodies of the 39 men, women and children, were found in the refrigeration unit of a trailer parked in the Grays area of Essex in the south of the UK.
Since then, a number of arrests have been made in both the UK and Việt Nam.
Gazmir Nuzi 42, of Tottenham, London, has also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
In April this year, 25-year-old Maurice Robinson pleaded guilty to 39 counts of manslaughter at the same court. The Craigavon man has previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property.
In June, 28-year-old Alexandru Hanga, of Tilbury, London, pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
They will all be sentenced at a later date.
Four men will await a trial at the Old Bailey this October in connection with our investigation.
Eamonn Harrison, a 23-year-old lorry driver from Mayobridge in Northern Ireland, and 43-year-old Gheorghe Nica of Langdon Hills, Essex, pleaded not guilty to 39 counts of manslaughter and one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration. Nica also pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to traffic people.
Christopher Kennedy, 23, of County Armagh, Northern Ireland, has been charged with conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of people with a view to exploitation and conspiracy to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK immigration law.
They will be joined by Valentin Calota, 37, of Birmingham, who has been charged with conspiring to do an act to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK immigration law by a non-EU person.
The trial will begin on Monday 5 October. VNS