Families of 39 lorry victims react to guilty verdicts

December 22, 2020 - 17:28

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.


File photo dated October 23, 2019 of police and forensic officers at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex, after 39 bodies of Vietnamese migrants were found inside a lorry on the industrial estate. AP/VNA Photo

 By Bảo Hoa & Paul Kennedy

HÀ NỘI The families of three of the 39 victims of the Essex lorry tragedy on Tuesday welcomed the guilty verdicts following the trial of two men responsible for causing their deaths.

But while they said they were pleased the case is over, some hope the ringleaders get the maximum sentence. Others said no matter how long they are jailed for, it will never compensate for the loss of their child.

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 in prison when they are sentenced for their crimes.

Two other men, haulier boss Ronan Hughes, 41, of Armagh, and 26-year-old lorry driver Maurice Robinson, of Craigavon, had earlier admitted the manslaughter charges.

All four will be sentenced in January along with others who were convicted or admitted minor people trafficking offences.

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.

They had travelled from various locations across Europe and Việt Nam with the ultimate goal of arriving in the United Kingdom, paying thousands of dollars for the trip that eventually cost them their lives.

Speaking after the verdicts, Nguyễn Đình Sắt who lost his 26-year-old son Nguyễn Đình Tứ said he hoped the ringleaders get the maximum sentence for their crimes.

He said: “I know in Europe being sentenced to life in prison is the high punishment, so the verdicts are quite fair. Two people might face the life sentence, but I don’t know how many there are in the ring. And I hope the ring leader receives that sentence.”

His wife added: “He was a part of me, now he was cut off from me and there’s no way I can get him back. I hope the two countries collaborate and decide on the punishments, but the verdicts can’t make up for the loss we feel. No punishments will ever be enough. It hurts so much.”

Trần Thị Hiện, the mother of 19-year-old Bùi Thị Nhung, said: “The court in England has been working on this. And we agreed with the verdicts.

“When she was working in Europe she had supported me a lot. Now she’s gone, but sometimes I still think of her as if she was still living in England.”

Lê Minh Tuân, who lost his 30-year-old son Lê Văn Hà, said: “What happened can’t be undone. It’s up to the court there, nothing we can do.

“What has past is past. Our family feels the pain every time someone mentions him, especially his mother and wife. I’m a man so it’s a little easier, but for the women it’s a great sorrow to hear about him.”

Meanwhile, the Chief Constable of Essex Police said he was pleased he could fulfill the promise he made to the families of those who died 14 months ago.

Speaking after the verdict, Ben Julian Harrington said: “I promised Essex Police would do everything in its power to catch and convict the criminals responsible for the horrific journey of 39 Vietnamese people who tragically died on our shores.

“I wrote that promise in a Book of Condolence at the offices of Thurrock Council, a few streets away from where those men, women and children were discovered.

“That book is eight thousand miles away in Việt Nam near the families of those who died, but I am proud to say that Essex Police and our partners have kept our promise.”

Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Daniel Stoten, added: “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.”

Home Secretary, Priti Patel, added: “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.” VNS