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Four jailed in connection with Essex lorry tragedy

Update: September, 15/2020 - 10:36


Defendants appear in court on Monday for sentencing in connection with the lorry tragedy that left 39 Vietnamese citizens dead.  — Photo

HÀ TĨNH — Four people have been jailed in connection with the Essex lorry tragedy last year in which 39 Vietnamese citizens died.

Three others were also given suspended sentences at Hà Tĩnh People’s Court on Monday.

They were prosecuted in connection with the death of Phạm Thị Trà My, 26, who sent a number of harrowing text messages to her family when she was trapped in the refrigeration unit of the lorry as it entered the UK in October.

Nguyễn Quốc Thành, born in 1994, of Cần Thơ City was sentenced seven and half years in jail, fined VNĐ 20 million and had US$ 3,000 revoked; Nguyễn Thị Thuý Hoà, born in 1984, of Nghệ An province sentenced to six years in jail and fined VNĐ 15 million, Trần Đình Trường, born in 1985, of Hà Tĩnh Province, sentenced of five years in jail and fined VNĐ 10 million and Nguyễn Xuân Triều, born in 1996, sentenced to two and a half in jail plus fine of VNĐ 10 million.

Lê Văn Huệ, 53 years old, Võ Văn Kỳ, 58 years old and Võ Văn Hồ 68 years old, all from Nghệ An Province, were given between 12 and 18 month suspended sentences and fined VNĐ 5 million each.

The trial was first opened in August, but was adjourned due to the absence of the majority of witnesses.

On Monday, the seven accused were found guilty of "organising and brokering illegal emigration".

The defendant Võ Văn Kỳ was absent from the court as he is being treated for cancer.

The court was told the defendant Trường asked Hoà to arrange to send Phạm Thị Trà My, of Hà Tĩnh Province’s Can Lộc District, to France in order to enter the UK.

The price to smuggle her to England was $21,000 and Hoà sent My to China on a tourism visa and then using false documents she flew to France.

Hoà, Thành and Thành’s sister - Nguyễn Thị Thuý Diễm, 31 years old, of Cần Thơ City together made the fake documents which facilitated My’s trip.

On October 19, 2019, on the way from France to UK, My was found by UK police and expelled from UK, returning to France.

But just four days later she made the journey again, this time hidden in the refrigerated container with 38 other Vietnamese nationals.

When they arrived in Essex, their lifeless bodies were discovered in the back of the lorry.

The judges said the defendants had engaged in dangerous violations of immigration and labour export laws, but recognised the fact that they had cooperated with the investigators and been willing to address the consequences.

Seven people involved in trafficking My and tens of others to the UK were arrested by Hà Tĩnh police in February.

The defendant Nguyễn Thị Thuý Diễm, was identified as the ring leader but he has since fled away and is wanted internationally.

Between May and October 2019, Diễm allegedly instructed Thành to work with Hoà, Kỳ, Hồ and Huệ to prepare documents for many people who wanted to go to Europe to work.

They proposed two routes: via China or Greece at the cost of $17,000-20,000 per person. When their clients reached their destinations, they would be given fake identification documents and moved on to another country.

Investigators found that from May to October 2019, Hoà, Thành, Trường, Huệ, Triều, Hồ and Kỳ organised and brokered to send 22 people to China and then fled to UK. Hoà and Thành each earned $3,000, Trường and Huệ each earned $1,500, Triều $1,000, Hồ VNĐ 20 million and Kỳ earned VNĐ18 million.

Trường told investigators that he had worked in the UK.

He had only instructed My, his cousin, to go to France, he told authorities, insisting that he had nothing to do with her journey to the UK.

It was "inappropriate" for the authorities to conclude that he caused her death, he said. Trường also said he "does not clearly remember" how many people he’d helped get to Europe.

Thành was identified as one of the kingpins who helped 71 people to enter Europe illegally.

Of the 39 victims in the truck tragedy, 21 were from Nghệ An Province and 10 from Hà Tĩnh and the rest from the provinces of Quảng Bình, Thừa Thiên-Huế, Hải Dương and Hải Phòng City.

In June, a court in Nghệ An Province sentenced  a local woman to 15 months in jail for helping a friend enter the UK.  The friend was among the 39 truck tragedy victims.

Meanwhile, in UK, 40-year-old Irishman Ronan Hughes pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges last month and Northern Irishman truck driver Maurice Robinson pleaded guilty in April for causing the deaths of 39 Vietnamese people.

A charity in England that rescues and supports migrant workers smuggled into the UK, yesterday welcomed the sentences handed down to a gang jailed in connection with the death of one of the Essex lorry victims.

On Tuesday, Patricia Durr, Chief Executive of ECPAT UK, said: “The sentencing is a stark reminder that the tragedy of 39 Vietnamese men, women and children found dead in a lorry here in the UK nearly one year ago demands justice. Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of all the victims.

“Criminals worked together across borders to exploit the desperation of young victims, including 10 teenagers.  

“In our work to support children and young people who have been trafficked here in the UK we see time and time again the impact of insecurity and trauma on them and the visceral human need for safety and protection, care and stability to help them to recover, heal and contribute.” VNS

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