M40

People smuggling suspect arrested over death of 39 Vietnamese migrants

People smuggling suspect wanted in connection with the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants found dead in the back of a lorry in Essex is arrested by the NCA at a supermarket petrol station in Middlesbrough

  • The Vietnamese national, who has not been named, was detained at a supermarket petrol station just off the A66 in Middlesbrough on Thursday
  • The man is wanted by Belgian authorities who allege he played a role in placing at least ten migrants inside the lorry where 39 migrants were found dead
  • The 39 Vietnamese migrants were found dead in a lorry in October 2019 in Essex

A suspected people smuggler wanted in connection with the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants found dead in the back of a lorry in Essex has been arrested by National Crime[2] Agency officers. 

The Vietnamese national, who has not been named, was detained at a supermarket petrol station just off the A66 in Middlesbrough at around 1pm on Thursday afternoon. 

The man is wanted by the Belgian authorities who allege he has played a key role in placing at least ten migrants inside the lorry where 39 people were found dead in October 2019, according to the NCA. 

They suspect he is a member of a people smuggling network which moves migrants through Belgium and France[3] and into the UK in the back of lorries.

The Vietnamese national, who has not been named, is wanted by the Belgian authorities who allege he has played a key role in placing at least ten migrants inside the lorry where 39 people died. Pictured: Police and Forensic officers inspecting the lorry at the Waterglade Park in Essex in October 2019

The Vietnamese national, who has not been named, is wanted by the Belgian authorities who allege he has played a key role in placing at least ten migrants inside the lorry where 39 people died. Pictured: Police and Forensic officers inspecting the lorry at the Waterglade Park in Essex in October 2019

The Vietnamese national, who has not been named, is wanted by the Belgian authorities who allege he has played a key role in placing at least ten migrants inside the lorry where 39 people died. Pictured: Police and Forensic officers inspecting the lorry at the Waterglade Park in Essex in October 2019

The man was detained at a supermarket petrol station just off the A66 in Middlesbrough at around 1pm on Thursday afternoon. Pictured: The lorry where 39 migrants were found dead in Essex

The man was detained at a supermarket petrol station just off the A66 in Middlesbrough at around 1pm on Thursday afternoon. Pictured: The lorry where 39 migrants were found dead in Essex

The man was detained at a supermarket petrol station just off the A66 in Middlesbrough at around 1pm on Thursday afternoon. Pictured: The lorry where 39 migrants were found dead in Essex

The man is suspected of running safe houses in Brussels where the migrants stayed before their fatal journey as well as organising their onward transport in taxis to a collection point in France where they were put in the back of a sealed refrigerated lorry.   

The arrest comes just days after Italian police said on Saturday they had arrested Romanian citizen Stefan Damian Dragos who allegedly provided the lorry where the 39 migrants were found.   

There was no immediate statement from the suspect or from any lawyer representing him. He was arrested in the town of Cinisello Balsamo, north of Milan, but police gave no further details.

The Vietnamese national who was arrested today was tracked down by NCA investigators to Middlesbrough. A Belgian investigating magistrate has issued a warrant for his arrest in December after suspecting he had fled to the UK.      

The man will now appear before Westminster Magistrates where extradition proceedings will begin.

Inside were the bodies of 28 men, eight women and three children (pictured) who died 'excruciatingly slow' deaths while at sea as temperatures inside soared to 38.5C

Inside were the bodies of 28 men, eight women and three children (pictured) who died 'excruciatingly slow' deaths while at sea as temperatures inside soared to 38.5C

Inside were the bodies of 28 men, eight women and three children (pictured) who died ‘excruciatingly slow’ deaths while at sea as temperatures inside soared to 38.5C

The NCA’s Head of Organised Immigration Crime Operations, Miles Bonfield, said: ‘This is another significant arrest in terms of the identifying those involved in the events which led to the tragic deaths of those 39 migrants.

‘The individual detained today is suspected by the Belgian authorities of having played a key role in placing at least ten migrants inside that lorry.

‘Working closely with partners in the UK, Europe and beyond we are determined to do all we can to get justice for the families of those who died, and disrupt and dismantle the cruel organised criminal networks involved in people smuggling.’

In April, another Vietnamese national who is accused of being a key ‘organiser’ in the fatal smuggling operation lost his appeal against extradition. 

Ngo Sy Tai, also known as Hung Sy Truong, was arrested in December last year by NCA in Redditch, Worcestershire, on a European Arrest Warrant.

He is wanted in Belgium over allegations he ran a so-called ‘safe house’ for his fellow Vietnamese nationals in Anderlecht, Brussels. 

Following his arrest, Ngo appealed the decision that he should be extradited, but District Judge Mark Jabbitt refused the appeal in April.  

Ngo Sy Tai, pictured right, was arrested in Redditch, Worcestershire, on a European Arrest Warrant in connection with the deaths of Vietnamese migrants. In April, he lost an appeal against his extradition to Belgium

Ngo Sy Tai, pictured right, was arrested in Redditch, Worcestershire, on a European Arrest Warrant in connection with the deaths of Vietnamese migrants. In April, he lost an appeal against his extradition to Belgium

Ngo Sy Tai, pictured right, was arrested in Redditch, Worcestershire, on a European Arrest Warrant in connection with the deaths of Vietnamese migrants. In April, he lost an appeal against his extradition to Belgium

In January this year, four men were jailed for a total of 78 years for killing the 39 Vietnamese migrants by bringing them into the UK in a sealed lorry.  

Drivers Eamonn Harrison, 23, and Maurice Robinson, 26 – together with Romanian fixer Gheorghe Nica, 43 – were paid by Ronan Hughes, 40, to ferry non-EU citizens into the UK. 

Hughes headed the million-pound people-smuggling ring which used death trap lorries on multiple occasions – charging his human cargo up to £14,000 a head for a ‘VIP’ service.

But the journey in October 2019 went horribly wrong when driver Robinson opened the back of his refrigerated trailer in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, to be met with a gush of steam – and 39 bodies.

Hughes was jailed for 20 years, while fixer Nica – who arranged transport from Essex to London for the foreign nationals – was sentenced to 27.

Robinson was handed a 13-year and four-month sentence, while Harrison – who dropped off the trailer in Zeebrugge before it was sailed to Britain – was jailed for 18 years.   

Ronan Hughes, 40, (pictured) headed the million-pound people-smuggling ring which used death trap lorries on multiple occasions - charging his human cargo £14,000 a head

Ronan Hughes, 40, (pictured) headed the million-pound people-smuggling ring which used death trap lorries on multiple occasions - charging his human cargo £14,000 a head

But the journey in October 2019 went horribly wrong when driver Maurice Robinson, 26, (pictured) opened the back of his refrigerated trailer in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, to be met with a gush of steam - and 39 bodies.

But the journey in October 2019 went horribly wrong when driver Maurice Robinson, 26, (pictured) opened the back of his refrigerated trailer in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, to be met with a gush of steam - and 39 bodies.

Ronan Hughes, 40, (left) headed the million-pound people-smuggling ring which used death trap lorries on multiple occasions – charging his human cargo £14,000 a head. But the journey in October 2019 went horribly wrong when driver Maurice Robinson, 26, (right) opened the back of his refrigerated trailer in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, to be met with a gush of steam – and 39 bodies.

Driver Eamonn Harrison, 23, (pictured) - who dropped off the trailer in Zeebrugge before it was sailed to Britain - was jailed for 18 years

Driver Eamonn Harrison, 23, (pictured) - who dropped off the trailer in Zeebrugge before it was sailed to Britain - was jailed for 18 years

Eamonn Harrison

Eamonn Harrison

Driver Eamonn Harrison, 23, (pictured) – who dropped off the trailer in Zeebrugge before it was sailed to Britain – was jailed for 18 years

Romanian fixer Gheorghe Nica, 43, who arranged transport from Essex to London for the foreign nationals - was sentenced to 27

Romanian fixer Gheorghe Nica, 43, who arranged transport from Essex to London for the foreign nationals - was sentenced to 27

Alexandru Hanga, 28, from Essex, has been jailed for three years for conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Alexandru Hanga, 28, from Essex, has been jailed for three years for conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Romanian fixer Gheorghe Nica, 43, (left) who arranged transport from Essex to London for the foreign nationals, was sentenced to 27 years.  Alexandru Hanga, 28, from Essex, (right) has been jailed for three years for conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Christopher Kennedy, 24, from County Armagh, has been jailed for seven years

Christopher Kennedy, 24, from County Armagh, has been jailed for seven years

Valentin Calota, 37, from Birmingham, has been jailed for four and a half years

Valentin Calota, 37, from Birmingham, has been jailed for four and a half years

Christopher Kennedy, 24, from County Armagh, (left) has been jailed for seven years and Valentin Calota, 37, from Birmingham,  has been jailed for four and a half years – both guilty of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

CCTV shows police arriving at the scene where Robinson had found the bodies in the back of his lorry (top right)

CCTV shows police arriving at the scene where Robinson had found the bodies in the back of his lorry (top right)

CCTV shows police arriving at the scene where Robinson had found the bodies in the back of his lorry (top right)

Mr Justice Sweeney said in January: ‘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.’ 

During the trial, jurors saw horrifying footage of steam gushing from the container as Robinson opened the doors after pulling up in Eastern Avenue, Grays, at 1.13am on October 23, 2019. 

Inside were the bodies of 28 men, eight women and three children who died ‘excruciatingly slow’ deaths while at sea as temperatures inside soared to 38.5C.

Had they arrived safely the smugglers would have made £800,000 for the journey, the court heard.

Instead of calling the police upon his discovery, Robinson called Hughes.

Kingpin Hughes told him to ‘open the doors, give them air’ but Robinson fired back, saying: ‘I can’t, they’re f****** dead.’

He waited more than 20 minutes to make the 999 call after opening the doors to see the victims half-naked having suffocated to death in ‘unbearable’ temperatures. 

The final moments of the dying victims as they gasped for air and cried for help were also played during the trial at London’s Old Bailey.

A photo showing pole marks inside the lorry trailer after migrants attempted to make air holes shortly before they suffocated

A photo showing pole marks inside the lorry trailer after migrants attempted to make air holes shortly before they suffocated

A photo showing pole marks inside the lorry trailer after migrants attempted to make air holes shortly before they suffocated

Video played to the court showed the moment officers arrived on scene in Essex and (inset) body cam footage shows an officer looking for signs of life inside the lorry. Driver Maurice Robinson called 999 after discovering the bodies in his lorry

Video played to the court showed the moment officers arrived on scene in Essex and (inset) body cam footage shows an officer looking for signs of life inside the lorry. Driver Maurice Robinson called 999 after discovering the bodies in his lorry

Video played to the court showed the moment officers arrived on scene in Essex and (inset) body cam footage shows an officer looking for signs of life inside the lorry. Driver Maurice Robinson called 999 after discovering the bodies in his lorry

Romanian fixer Gheorghe Nica, 43, (pictured) - who arranged transport from Essex to London for the foreign nationals - was sentenced to 27

Romanian fixer Gheorghe Nica, 43, (pictured) - who arranged transport from Essex to London for the foreign nationals - was sentenced to 27

 Gheorghe Nica in a shop purchasing a mobile phone top-up

Nguyen Tho Tuan taped a harrowing final message for his family at 7.37pm. 

The 25-year-old said: ‘It’s Tuan. I am sorry. I cannot take care of you. I am sorry. I am sorry. I cannot breathe. I want to come back to my family. Have a good life.’

Just before 7pm, another victim, Nguyen Dinh Luong, 20, had desperately tried to call Vietnamese emergency services, dialling 133, but phone signal in the trailer had cut out. 

Another male victim recorded a message at 8.02pm apologising to his parents and telling them: ‘I have to go.’

A voice in the background can be heard trying to reassure their compatriots, saying: ‘Come on everyone, open up, and open up.’

A graphic used by Essex Police illustrating location of the 39 bodies found inside a container lorry in Grays, Essex

A graphic used by Essex Police illustrating location of the 39 bodies found inside a container lorry in Grays, Essex

A graphic used by Essex Police illustrating location of the 39 bodies found inside a container lorry in Grays, Essex

At 1.07am, Robinson collected the trailer, some 12 hours after it was sealed. He was instructed by Hughes via Snapchat to 'give them air quickly don't let them out'.

At 1.07am, Robinson collected the trailer, some 12 hours after it was sealed. He was instructed by Hughes via Snapchat to 'give them air quickly don't let them out'.

At 1.07am, Robinson collected the trailer, some 12 hours after it was sealed. He was instructed by Hughes via Snapchat to ‘give them air quickly don’t let them out’.

Speaking outside the Old Bailey DCI Daniel Stoten (pictured) - who led the Essex police investigation - said: 'I welcome today's sentences'

Speaking outside the Old Bailey DCI Daniel Stoten (pictured) - who led the Essex police investigation - said: 'I welcome today's sentences'

Speaking outside the Old Bailey DCI Daniel Stoten (pictured) – who led the Essex police investigation – said: ‘I welcome today’s sentences’

Moments later, another victim said: ‘He’s dead.’

The original tape, which captures the bravery of the migrants as they realised they were dying, was played before prosecutor Jonathan Polnay who translated the messages.

Who has been convicted in the Essex lorry death case? 

Eamonn Harrison, 23

  • Guilty of 39 counts of manslaughter
  • Guilty of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Gheorghe Nica, 43

  • Guilty of 39 counts of manslaughter
  • Admits conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Valentin Calota, 37

  • Guilty of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Christopher Kennedy, 24

  • Guilty of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Maurice Robinson, 26

  • Admits 39 counts of manslaughter
  • Admits conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Ronan Hughes, 41

  • Admits 39 counts of manslaughter 
  • Admits conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration
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Translating the first recording Mr Polnay said: ”I’m so sorry’ – that’s him speaking to his wife and his child – ‘I’m sorry’ – that’s to his mother – ‘I’m sorry’ – and that’s addressed to his whole family. ‘I cannot breathe. I want to come back to my family. Have a good life.”

Referring to the second message Mr Polnay said: ‘He says I can’t breathe, he says his name, I’m sorry to his parents, I have to go. It’s all my fault.

‘And a voice in his the background says: ‘Come on everyone, open up and open up.” 

Driver Eamonn Harrison and fixer Gheorghe Nica were earlier convicted of 39 counts of manslaughter. 

Robinson also admitted 39 counts of manslaughter while Harrison was found guilty of  39 counts of manslaughter and of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Fellow gang members lorry drivers Christopher Kennedy, 24, from County Armagh, and Valentin Calota, 38, from Birmingham – who were not involved in the October 2019 tragedy – were found guilty of assisting illegal immigration by an Old Bailey jury. 

Gazmir Nuzi, 42, and Alexandru Hanga, 28, from Essex, both admitted one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration last year. 

Their involvement described as relating to a single occasion in each case – prior to the October 22 tragedy.  

Robinson, Hughes, Nica and Harrison sat in a row in the main dock while Kennedy, Calota and Hanga appeared virtually from another courtroom in the building during the sentencing in January. Nuzi did not appear. 

The judge said in January the victims had died ‘excruciatingly slow’ deaths at sea, before they reached Purfleet.

Kingpin Hughes hung his head as he was spared a life sentence.

Timeline of the Essex lorry tragedy 

Here is a timeline of events surrounding the deaths of 39 Vietnamese men, women and children in the back of a lorry in Essex.

  • May 9 2018: Eamonn Harrison is stopped at Coquelles in France driving a lorry into the Channel Tunnel. It is found to have 18 Vietnamese nationals hidden in the back sitting on boxes of waffles. He is issued with a fine which is never paid.
  • May 1 2019: Harrison is caught drink-driving in Drantum, Germany, after he lost control and his lorry toppled over. He is convicted and ordered to pay 855 euro.
  • October 9 2019: At 9.04pm, Harrison’s GPS tracker places his truck in La Chappelle d’Armentieres in northern France. He beds down for the night in Bailleul.
  • October 10: Harrison makes a series of stops in Nieppe, La Chapelle d’Armentieres and Lissewege before he delivers a human cargo to Zeebrugge in Belgium to be transported to Purfleet in Essex.
  • October 11: At 7am, the trailer containing the migrants is picked up in Purfleet by lorry driver Christopher Kennedy and taken to a drop-off point near Orsett Golf Club.
  • At 8.18am, Gheorghe Nica, Alexandru Hanga, Marius Draghici and Gazmir Nuzi are caught on CCTV allegedly arriving in convoy.
  • At 8.22am, Marie Andrews and Stewart Cox, who live on Collingwood Farm, Orsett, see a red lorry with a white trailer pull up, together with four black Mercedes vehicles. As they watched, 15 to 20 people jump out of the lorry and run to the Mercedes.
  • October 14: At 7.25am Kennedy travels from Dover to Calais with the same lorry, but a different trailer.
  • At 11.50pm, Kennedy is stopped at Coquelles, en route to Folkestone via the Eurotunnel. Twenty Vietnamese nationals are discovered in his trailer and taken away by the border authorities, but Kennedy is allowed to continue with his journey. It later transpires two of the migrants are among the victims.
  • October 17: Harrison makes a second successful run, dropping off a container load of migrants at Zeebrugge with a consignment of biscuits.
  • October 18: At 7.24am, Kennedy picks up the trailer and takes it to the same pick-up point at Orsett. Valentin Calota is one of the drivers brought by Nica to collect the new arrivals and drive them over the Dartford crossing and into south-east London.
  • In the afternoon, Barbara Richmond-Clarke, warehouse manager at Lenham Storage, in Kent, rejects the delivery of crushed and dirty biscuit boxes.
  • In the evening, haulier boss Ronan Hughes, lorry driver Maurice Robinson, Draghici and Nica – now carrying a heavy bag full of cash – meet at the Ibis Hotel in Thurrock.
  • At 9.53pm, Harrison is found drunk in Bruges, Belgium, and is stopped by police.
  • October 19: At 9.09am, police find Harrison’s truck has been parked illegally and ask him to move.
  • October 22: From 5.47am, five of the victims’ phones are used in Paris.
  • Around 9am, more are detected on the Belgian border between Dunkerque and Lille.
  • From 9.21am, CCTV shows three taxis arriving at Bierne, northern France, followed by Harrison’s lorry.
  • At 1.41pm Harrison’s lorry arrives at Zeebrugge port.
  • At 2.52pm, the trailer containing 39 people, aged between 15 and 44, is loaded onto the MV Clementine which sails late, at 3.36pm.
  • At 7.37 pm, young father Nguyen Tho Tuan records a message for his family saying: ‘It’s Tuan. I am sorry. I cannot take care of you. I am sorry. I am sorry. I cannot breathe. I want to come back to my family. Have a good life.’
  • Between 9.42pm and 10.42pm, the temperature in the trailer peaks at 38.5 Celsius.
  • Between 10pm and 10.30pm the atmosphere is estimated to have reached toxic levels, killing all 39 victims.
  • October 23: At 12.18am, the Clementine docks at Purfleet.
  • At 1.07am, Robinson collects the trailer, some 12 hours after it was sealed. He is instructed by Hughes via Snapchat to ‘give them air quickly don’t let them out’.
  • Robinson drives out of Purfleet, stops and opens the doors at the back. He stands for 90 seconds before getting back in the cab.
  • From 1.15 am, Robinson drives around for seven minutes before returning to the same location on Eastern Avenue. He opens the rear doors again, calls Hughes for one minutes and 42 seconds and takes a minute-long call from Nica.
  • Over 15 minutes, there is a flurry of telephone contact between Hughes, Robinson, Kennedy and Nica, who leaves the area of Collingwood Farm.
  • At 1.36am, Robinson telephones 999 and requests an ambulance.
  • At 1.50am, police arrived on the scene and find Robinson looking ‘calm’ by the trailer.
  • Later that morning, Kennedy tells a friend via text: ‘must have been 2 many and run out of air.’
  • Nica takes an evening flight from Luton to Romania.
  • October 24: Draghici flies to Bucharest, in Romania, and remains at large.
  • November 22: Kennedy is arrested after the lorry he is driving on the M40 in Oxfordshire is stopped.
  • February 7, 2020: Nica is extradited to the UK after being detained in Frankfurt under a European Arrest Warrant.
  • March 14: Calota is arrested on arrival at Birmingham airport from Romania.
  • April 8: Robinson pleads guilty at the Old Bailey to 39 counts of manslaughter.
  • June 23: Hughes is extradited from the Republic of Ireland to the UK and pleads guilty to the manslaughter in August.
  • July 22: Harrison is extradited to the UK having been detained at Dublin Port, Ireland, under European Arrest Warrant, on October 26 2019.
  • October 5: Nica and Harrison go on trial at the Old Bailey for manslaughter. Harrison, Calota and Kennedy are accused of being involved in a wider people-smuggling conspiracy, which Nica, Robinson, Hughes and two others have admitted.
  • December 21: they are convicted of manslaughter
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Wearing a Nike jacket and jeans for his sentencing, Nica showed no emotion when he was jailed for 27 years imprisonment.

Harrison, who was convicted of the 39 counts by a majority of 10-1, nodded as he was jailed for 18 years.

Mr Justice Sweeney said the offences did not ‘meet the criteria’ for life sentences because it was possible the killers had not known there was a serious risk of death.

The smugglers had been involved in the deadly trade for years despite repeated run-ins with the authorities.

Harrison was fined after he was stopped near Calais driving a lorry full of Vietnamese nationals in May 2018.

The people smuggler was caught in Coquelles with 18 migrants concealed in the back of his truck.

He didn’t even bother to pay the fine and continued ‘busily bringing illegal immigrants into the country’ along with his co-conspirators.

On October 14, 2019,  Kennedy was waved on by French border officials when he tried to smuggle two of the Vietnamese migrants who died weeks later in the tragedy.

The 20 foreign nationals in his trailer were taken away – but Kennedy was allowed to continue on his journey.

At least two of those on board were later suffocated to death when they tried again on 23 October.

Police had been tipped off about the Essex route since the summer of 2019 but had done nothing.

Resident Marie Andrews reported the people-smuggling drop to police three times after seeing a group of Vietnamese nationals jump out of a lorry outside her home two weeks before the tragedy.

She called the police after she and her partner Stewart Cox watched a lorry unload 15 to 20 non-EU citizens and tried to warn officers on 11 October.

Giving evidence, Ms Andrews said she had been calling emergency services about ‘dodgy’ activity at her home on Collingwood Farm near Orsett since the summer of 2019.

But she told the court officers ‘had not been listening.’

Harrison met the migrants at a rendezvous in Chemin-Noord Strate in France before driving them to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge.

From there, they sailed across the channel and were collected by Robinson at Purfleet.

They would be dropped off at a handover point on a remote farm near Orsett, from where Nica and his drivers – including Calota – drove them to their final destination in London by car.

Usually loads of around 15 to 20 migrants were taken to the Belgian border.

But after a botched run on 13 October the traffickers wanted to do two loads in one and crammed the container with 39 Vietnamese nationals.

Robinson knew something was wrong on the final leg of the route because he was sent a message on Snapchat by Hughes, reading: ‘Give them air quickly, but don’t let them out,’ to which he responded with a thumbs-up emoji.

The exchange happened at some point between midnight and 1.20am when he opened the container door and found the lifeless bodies piled up.

First he called Hughes and then Nica, waiting 23 minutes to contact the emergency services.

PC Jack Emerson, who attended the scene after the 999 call, said ‘At the back of the trailer I could see a 6ft white male standing at the rear of the trailer that I took as the driver.

‘He was just standing there, his demeanour appeared calm.

‘I could visibly see half naked bodies laying on the trailer floor laying motionless. It became apparent as I got closer that the entire trailer was full of bodies.

‘Most of the bodies were half naked.

‘Most of the bodies were wearing clothes on their lower half but not on their lower half.

‘All of the bodies appeared intact and it was my opinion they had not been there for a long time.

‘As I moved through the trailer I checked the bodies for pulse but couldn’t find one.

‘Because of how packed together the bodies were it was not possible to check every body.

‘I recall when checking some bodies some of them appeared to have been frothing from the mouth.’

Nica admitted assisting unlawful immigration at the start of the trial, but claimed he was no longer involved by the time tragedy struck on October 23.

The British-Romanian said he had agreed to smuggle people into the country previously because Hughes ‘came to England and asked him’ but then opted out on October 23.

He shared a ‘celebratory drink’ after a people-smuggling run on October 18 in the bar of the Ibis hotel in Thurrock with Robinson.

The four toasted the success of the operation before moving to Hughes’ suite upstairs where a cash handover took place.

Nica insisted he stopped his involvement in the runs after that, claiming he had only been in the country waiting to get British passports for his estranged wife and children.

He said he had been anxious to make money to pay for a rare medical treatment for his four-year-old daughter, who has cerebral palsy.

Kennedy and Calota claimed they unwittingly transported the migrants into the country.

But Kennedy accepted that he had helped Hughes ‘disguise’ evidence of human contamination after the October 18 run.

He told jurors he had been due to deliver a legitimate load of Mrs Crimble’s macaroons and Bakewell tarts to a warehouse in Maidstone, Kent, after the stowaways were left with Nica.

When he opened up the back doors the boxes were squashed and covered in footprints with ‘bags of p***’ discarded amongst the goods.

Calota insisting that he had ‘hearing problems’ and had been told to look ahead while Nica loaded the migrants into the back of his van at Collingwood Farm.

He said he had agreed to transport loads of smuggled cigarettes, but denied knowing migrants were in the back of his van during an hour-long journey down to London on the same date.

The group of migrants were from five provinces in the central, coastal area of Vietnam and two provinces near Hanoi

The group of migrants were from five provinces in the central, coastal area of Vietnam and two provinces near Hanoi

The group of migrants were from five provinces in the central, coastal area of Vietnam and two provinces near Hanoi

Harrison insisted he had no idea the Vietnamese nationals were in the container but claimed Hughes, put a price on his head after he crashed one of his trucks in Germany while drunk.

Their claims were rejected by the jury after 22 hours and 48 minutes of deliberation.

Unanimous guilty verdicts were reached for Nica and Kennedy while Harrison and Calota were convicted on each count by a majority of 10 to 1. 

Nica, of Mimosa Close, Langdon Hills, Basildon, Essex, denied but was convicted of 39 counts of manslaughter and one count of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration relating to the date of 23 October.

He admitted a further count of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration relating to the period before the tragedy and was jailed for 27 years. 

Speaking outside the Old Bailey in January DCI Daniel Stoten – who led the Essex police investigation – said: ‘I welcome today’s sentences.

‘These significant sentences are a reflection of the serious and organised nature of the crimes and of course the tragic circumstances of the case.

‘The quality of the evidence presented assured all the suspects faced justice including those who refused to admit their guilt.

‘Most significant of all of these was Gheorghe Nica, who told lie after lie after lie, in the most despicable manner.

‘The criminals in this case made their money from misery they knew what they were doing was dangerous but they did it anyway.

‘They treated them as commodities and they transported them in ways we would not transport animals.

‘I hope this sentence send a strong message to those involved in this type of crime and that message is we will find you, we will stop you and we will bring you to justice.

‘Two of the victims were just 15 years old. They died in the most unimaginable of ways. They died because of the utter greed of the people involved.

‘I hope today’s significant sentences bring some comfort to the families and friends of the victims it has been my pleasure to lead this investigation on their behalf.

‘As always the victims and their families are in my thoughts in our thoughts today and always.’       

References

  1. ^ Rachael Bunyan For Mailonline (www.dailymail.co.uk)
  2. ^ Crime (www.dailymail.co.uk)
  3. ^ France (www.dailymail.co.uk)

A404 shut due to serious crash involving lorry and pedestrian

The A404 is shut because of a serious crash involving a lorry and a pedestrian. 

The A404 is closed southbound between Handy Cross and the A4155 at Little Marlow. 

Highways England said to expect delays, adding: “The A404 in Buckinghamshire is closed southbound between the M40 (J4) and the A4155 (near Marlow) due to a serious collision involving a lorry and a pedestrian.”

Thames Valley Police said: “The A404 has been closed southbound between the Handy Cross roundabout and Marlow due to a serious road traffic collision.

“The road is likely to remain closed for some time and serious traffic disruption is anticipated. Please find alternative routes.”

Lorry driver caught eating lasagne with knife and fork on motorway

A LORRY driver who ate lasagne with a knife and fork on a motorway has been caught as part of a heavy goods vehicle-aided police crackdown on dangerous motorway driving.

The offence in West Mercia is one of thousands seen by officers as part of Operation Tramline, a campaign aimed at reducing the number of collisions on the UK’s motorways. It sees officers use unmarked HGV “supercabs” to spot dangerous driving by both ordinary motorists and those operating lorries.

Another campaign using the supercabs, called Operation Vertebrae, commenced on the M6 today (Monday, May 24) and will end on Sunday, May 30. Highways England deals with around 180 incidents on the M6 — the longest motorway in the UK — every day. In 2019, 4,222 road traffic incidents were reported on the 230-mile-long highway.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Roads Policing Chief Constable Anthony Bangham said: “We remain committed to tackling those who take unnecessary risks with their own safety and the safety of others on our roads by allowing themselves to be distracted while driving.

“The consequences of these actions are often devastating. We will continue to work alongside Highways England on Operation Tramline and will prosecute drivers who ignore the risks.”

The most common offences recorded by Tramline include driving while using a mobile phone, which police have clocked 6,073 times, and driving without a seatbelt, spotted 6,253 times. Other frequent offences include not being in proper control of the vehicle (recorded 1,501 times) and speeding (recorded 1,199 times).

Highways England released recent footage of one HGV driver using his mobile phone while driving on the M40, almost hitting an unmarked Warwickshire Police supercab as he veers on and off the hard shoulder.

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Another motorist was seen using his mobile phone while driving, only putting it down when he heard the sound of a police siren.

[embedded content]

Surrey Police caught one lorry driver boiling a kettle on his dashboard while he drove, while another found himself in a pickle after being caught eating a jar of gherkins while he drove using his elbows. One used his knees to drive while eating his lunch and using his phone at the same time.

One person was apprehended twice in the same day using a mobile phone while driving on the A38 in Derbyshire. Consequences for offenders include warnings, fixed penalty notices and even arrests.

Highways England Head of Road Safety Jeremy Phillips said: “The Operation Tramline cabs are an important part of our commitment to tackling dangerous driving and those who take unnecessary risks with their own safety and that of others on the road.

“The number of people found using their mobile phone while driving is quite alarming. You are four times more likely to be in a crash if you use your phone and, if caught, face a £200 fine and six points on your licence.

“Through this week of action on the M6 we want to make all of our roads safer by raising awareness and encouraging motorists to consider their driving behaviour.”

[1]
[2]

References

  1. ^ (twitter.com)
  2. ^ (twitter.com)

Video shows moment a lorry driver using their phone nearly hits police HGV

Shocking police footage shows the moment a lorry driver drifts into the middle lane, nearly sideswiping officers in another HGV.

The video has been released by Highways England and showcases the driver veering first into the hard shoulder of the M40 and then back across the inside lane.

Unbeknownst to the driver, the occupants of the HGV he nearly hit were police taking part in Operation Tramline, which sees officers in lorry cabs targeting motorists for unsafe driving such as using a mobile phone, not wearing a seatbelt or not being in control of their vehicle.

In other clips released by Highways England, a lorry driver is seen shrugging and giving a thumbs up when caught texting behind the wheel, while a car driver who’s unaware the HGV alongside is a police vehicle has a phone in their hand right up until they hear a siren.

Jeremy Phillips, Highways England’s head of road safety, said: “The Operation Tramline cabs are an important part of our commitment to tackling dangerous driving and those who take unnecessary risks with their own safety and that of others on the road.

“The number of people found using their mobile phone while driving is quite alarming. You are four times more likely to be in a crash if you use your phone and, if caught, face a £200 fine and six points on your licence.”

The unmarked lorry cabs give officers a stealth approach to motorists, with other incidents including one lorry driver who was caught driving with his knees while eating his lunch, while another ate a lasagna with a knife and fork.

Another driver was caught using their phone while driving twice on one day on the A38 in Derbyshire.

Nina Day, the Health and Safety Executive transport sector spokesperson, said: “Employers must ensure that drivers, other workers, and members of the public are kept safe when vehicles are used for work.

“There are legal requirements for employers to have robust procedures in place to manage vehicle safety, including ensuring suitable procedures are in place, providing workers with appropriate training and equipment, maintaining equipment and vehicles, and supporting drivers when they raise concerns.”

This week, officers are using the unmarked cabs on Operation Vertebrae, which is a week-long campaign targeting unsafe drivers on the M6.

Lorry driver on his mobile phone almost hits Highways England supercab

New footage has been released today of a lorry driver on his mobile phone swerving in and out of motorway lanes before almost colliding with an unmarked HGV used by Highways England and the police to catch dangerous motorists.

The near crash was caught on camera on the M40 by operators in a ‘supercab’ – a plain white HGV that patrols England’s motorways network to covertly catch neglectful and careless drivers.

Highways England says its supercabs have captured clips that have led to more than 21,600 offences being handed out since their unmarked HGVs been on patrol since 2015 – and today announced they will be used on the M6 in a week-long stint to catch more dangerous drivers ahead of the bank holiday weekend.

 

The hair-raising video captures the lorry driver veering on and off the M40 motorway hard shoulder before swerving from the left-hand lane to the middle lane where the supercab is attempting to pull alongside.

The unwitting lorry driver narrowly avoiding a collision with the unmarked HGV before raising his hand in apology – not realising he is being filmed by the police officer in the passenger seat as part of an operation to catch dangerous motorway antics. 

The covert supercabs have been used on motorways for six years. The unsuspecting vehicles provide an elevated viewpoint to help spot dangerous driving.

Highways England said it was one of tens of thousands of cases it has captured using the vehicles as it announced a week-long campaign using the HGV starting today.

Most common offence types caught by Highways England supercabs 

1. Using a mobile phone – 6,073

2. Not wearing a seatbelt – 6,253

3. Not in proper control of vehicle – 1,501

4. Speeding – 1,199

 

The cabs are being used in Operation Vertebrae, taking place along the M6 from 24 May to 30 May as traffic levels are set to peak ahead of the bank holiday weekend – especially with the predicted summer heat wave.

The police forces taking part in the M6 sting include Cumbria, Lancashire, Merseyside, Cheshire and Warwickshire, along with the Central Motorway Police Group and the North West Commercial Vehicle Unit.

Highways England’s head of road safety, Jeremy Phillips, said the number of people using a phone while driving was ‘quite alarming’ as they are ‘four times more likely to be in a crash’ and could face a £200 fine and six points on their licence.

The M6 campaign aims to ‘make all of our roads safer by raising awareness and encouraging motorists to consider their driving behaviour’, he said.

Using a mobile phone, not wearing a seatbelt, not being in proper control of the vehicle and speeding are among the most common offences spotted from the supercabs since 2015.

This is when they started to be used to patrol motorways and major A roads in an ongoing campaign called Operation Tramline.

Highways England currently has a fleet of unmarked supercabs.

Some of them are Mercedes-Benz Actros models and others DAF trucks – and all of them are painted white as to not raise suspicion among motorists. 

Officers pull up alongside vehicles and capture unsafe driving behaviour on the cameras as evidence that can be used to prosecute guilty parties.

Police cars follow behind the HGV pull over the vehicle.

Motorists have been captured by supercab footage driving careless due to eating at the wheel, steering vehicles with their knees and even brushing their teeth. 

Other incidents on the M40 included a lorry driver looking down and texting for more than 20 seconds. 

When he eventually realises he’s being videoed, he simply shrugged and put his thumb up when he eventually spotted the police officers, Highways England said.

At the time this was happening a car driver, oblivious to the officers in the HGV cab alongside him, had a mobile phone in his right hand.

It was only when he heard the police siren that he put the phone down.

A driver in the East Midlands was caught steering a lorry with his knees while eating lunch on his lap and using his phone.

West Mercia officers saw a driver eating lasagne with a knife and fork while driving along a motorway.

Surrey Police spotted an HGV driver boiling a kettle on the dashboard and another eating pickled gherkins from a jar with his elbows on the steering wheel.

Officials working on Operation Vertebrae will offer advice at motorway services to drivers on issues such as what to do in a breakdown and ensuring load safety.

Vehicle checks will be carried out involving the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and the Home Office.

Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said tackling people who take unnecessary risks by allowing themselves to be distracted while driving is important because ‘the consequences of these actions are often devastating’.

Police release footage of HGV driver veering into path of police videoing him


 

A lorry driver talking on his mobile phone while driving on the M40 in Warwickshire almost collided with police videoing him in an unmarked HGV. The footage captures one of 21,000 offences recorded by officers in HGV cabs since Highways England rolled out the national safety initiative, Operation Tramline. In another clip, a trucker is seen looking down and texting on his phone as he travels along the motorway. When he spots the police officers in the next lane he […][1]



References

  1. ^ Police release footage of HGV driver veering into path of police videoing him (motortransport.co.uk)
  2. ^ login (motortransport.co.uk)
  3. ^ create a FREE account (motortransport.co.uk)

Footage shows driver on phone narrowly missing a police vehicle in Warwickshire

This driver was caught on film texting on his phone while driving.This driver was caught on film texting on his phone while driving.

This driver was caught on film texting on his phone while driving.

Veering on to the hard shoulder and back again, narrowly avoiding a collision with another HGV, the driver caught in this footage was using his mobile phone at the wheel (warning – there is mild swearing in the video).[1]

But what he didn’t realise was the vehicle he almost hit was a Highways England unmarked ‘supercab.’ – and there were two police officers inside.

The recent footage, taken on the M40 by Warwickshire Police, captures one of over 21,000 offences recorded by officers in the Operation Tramline HGV cabs since the national safety initiative was launched by Highways England.

In another clip captured by the force, a lorry driver is seen looking down and texting on his phone as he travels along the motorway. When he spots the police officers in the next lane he simply shrugs and puts his thumb up.

While a car driver, oblivious to the police officers in the HGV cab alongside him, has a mobile phone in his right hand in this incident – until he hears the police siren sound behind and puts the phone down.

The Highways England HGV cabs are now being used as part of a multi-agency week of action on the M6, taking place from Monday May 24 to Sunday May 30, which aims to reduce the number of incidents on the motorway and highlight the risks of dangerous driving.

Under the banner of Operation Vertebrae, the campaign takes place along the length of the M6, the longest motorway in the country. Highways England deals with around 180 reported incidents on the M6 every day. These include a large number of traffic collisions with 4,222 reported on the M6 in 2019.

This driver was caught using his mobile phone at the wheel.This driver was caught using his mobile phone at the wheel.
This driver was caught using his mobile phone at the wheel.

Since the launch of Operation Tramline in 2015, more than 21,600 offences have been recorded. The most common offences have included:

– Using a mobile phone – 6,073

– Not wearing a seatbelt – 6,253

– Not in proper control of vehicle – 1,501

– Speeding – 1,199

In total, 19,564 vehicles were stopped in Operation Tramline between July 2015 and April 2021.

Highways England Head of Road Safety, Jeremy Phillips, said: “The Operation Tramline cabs are an important part of our commitment to tackling dangerous driving and those who take unnecessary risks with their own safety and that of others on the road.

“The number of people found using their mobile phone while driving is quite alarming. You are four times more likely to be in a crash if you use your phone and, if caught, face a £200 fine and six points on your licence.

“Through this week of action on the M6 we want to make all of our roads safer by raising awareness and encouraging motorists to consider their driving behaviour.”

From their elevated viewpoint in the unmarked HGV cabs, police officers are able to spot people driving dangerously – whatever vehicle they may be in.

Among the incidents witnessed during Operation Tramline was a driver steering a lorry with his knees while eating lunch on his lap and also using his phone in the East Midlands. While in West Mercia, officers saw a driver eating lasagne with a knife and fork while driving along a motorway.

Surrey Police spotted a HGV driver boiling a kettle on the dashboard and another eating pickled gherkins from a jar with his elbows on the steering wheel.

One driver was caught twice in one day – in the morning and afternoon – using their mobile phone while driving along the A38 in Derbyshire.

Consequences for the drivers range from warnings to fixed penalty notices, court summons or even arrest.

In addition to the supercab patrols, partners taking part in the M6 week of action will be present at motorway services offering advice to drivers such as what to do in a breakdown and ensuring load safety.

Vehicle checks will also be carried out involving the DVSA, Health and Safety Executive and the Home Office.

Six forces are taking part in Operation Vertebrae – Cumbria, Lancashire, Merseyside, Cheshire, Warwickshire Police and Central Motorway Police Group, as well as the North West Commercial Vehicle Unit.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Roads Policing, Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, said: “Operation Tramline is a successful collaboration between the police and Highways England.

“We remain committed to tackling those who take unnecessary risks with their own safety and the safety of others on our roads by allowing themselves to be distracted while driving. The consequences of these actions are often devastating.

“We will continue to work alongside Highways England on Operation Tramline and will prosecute drivers who ignore the risks.”

Marian Kitson, DVSA’s Director of Enforcement, said: “DVSA’s priority is protecting everyone from unsafe vehicles and drivers. We’re delighted to be a part of this key road safety exercise. During the week, DVSA will be carrying out safety checks on caravans and small trailers as well as our normal commercial vehicle and driver inspections.

“Many caravans and small trailers have been parked up over winter, so we’re urging drivers who are new to towing or haven’t towed for a while to carry out some simple checks.

“The DVSA caravan and small trailer checks, that we’ll carry out as part of Operation Vertebrae, should take around 20 minutes each. We’ll check safety features including lights, tyres, breakaway cable and brakes. If a caravan or small trailer isn’t safe, the driver will be unable to continue their journey until the defect is fixed.”

HSE Transport Sector spokesperson, Nina Day, said: “Employers must ensure that drivers, other workers, and members of the public are kept safe when vehicles are used for work.

“There are legal requirements for employers to have robust procedures in place to manage vehicle safety, including ensuring suitable procedures are in place, providing workers with appropriate training and equipment, maintaining equipment and vehicles, and supporting drivers when they raise concerns.

“HSE works closely with our partner agencies to help vehicle operators and load consignors understand their legal responsibilities.”

References

  1. ^ in this footage (youtu.be)

Watch trucker on phone nearly crash into police ‘supercab’

This is the moment a lorry driver using his phone nearly crashed into undercover officers as he veered across a motorway lane.

The footage was taken by a Highways England unmarked ‘supercab’ with two police officers inside.

It was released by Highways England as it takes part in a multi-agency week of action on the M6, running from today, Monday May 24, until Sunday, May 30.

In the footage, taken on the M40 by Warwickshire Police, an officer can be heard saying: “He is moving towards the hard shoulder again. He is on the phone. Here he comes. Bloody hell!

“He is on the phone again and he nearly clipped us. We can see his phone in the mirror. Very nearly took us out. We will have him.”

Footage shows driver on phone narrowly avoid hitting police in HGV ‘supercab’
Footage shows driver on phone narrowly avoid hitting police in HGV ‘supercab’

The footage was among more than 21,000 offences recorded by officers in Operation Tramline HGV cabs since the national safety initiative was launched by Highways England.

In another video, a lorry driver was seen looking down and texting on his phone as he travelled along the motorway. When he spotted the police officers in the next lane he simply shrugged and puts his thumb up.

While a car driver, oblivious to the police officers in the HGV cab alongside him, had a mobile phone in his right hand until he heard the police siren sound behind and put the phone down.

Under the banner of Operation Vertebrae, the campaign takes place along the length of the M6, the longest motorway in the country. Highways England deals with around 180 reported incidents on the M6 every day. These include a large number of traffic collisions with 4,222 reported on the M6 in 2019.

Footage shows driver on phone and being filmed by police in HGV ‘supercab’
Footage shows driver on phone and being filmed by police in HGV ‘supercab’

Since the launch of Operation Tramline in 2015, more than 21,600 offences have been recorded. The most common offences have included:

  • Using a mobile phone – 6,073
  • Not wearing a seatbelt – 6,253
  • Not in proper control of vehicle – 1,501
  • Speeding – 1,199

In total, 19,564 vehicles were stopped in Operation Tramline between July 2015 and April 2021.

Jeremy Phillips, Highways England Head of Road Safety, said: “The Operation Tramline cabs are an important part of our commitment to tackling dangerous driving and those who take unnecessary risks with their own safety and that of others on the road.

“The number of people found using their mobile phone while driving is quite alarming. You are four times more likely to be in a crash if you use your phone and, if caught, face a £200 fine and six points on your licence.

“Through this week of action on the M6 we want to make all of our roads safer by raising awareness and encouraging motorists to consider their driving behaviour.”

From their elevated viewpoint in the unmarked HGV cabs, police officers are able to spot people driving dangerously – whatever vehicle they may be in.

Among the incidents witnessed during Operation Tramline was a driver steering a lorry with his knees while eating lunch on his lap and also using his phone in the East Midlands.

While in West Mercia, officers saw a driver eating lasagne with a knife and fork while driving along a motorway.

Surrey Police spotted a HGV driver boiling a kettle on the dashboard and another eating pickled gherkins from a jar with his elbows on the steering wheel.

One driver was caught twice in one day – in the morning and afternoon – using their mobile phone while driving along the A38 in Derbyshire.

Consequences for the drivers range from warnings to fixed penalty notices, court summons or even arrest.

In addition to the supercab patrols, partners taking part in the M6 week of action will be present at motorway services offering advice to drivers such as what to do in a breakdown and ensuring load safety.

Vehicle checks will also be carried out involving the DVSA, Health and Safety Executive and the Home Office.

Six forces are taking part in Operation Vertebrae – Warwickshire Police, Cumbria, Lancashire, Merseyside, Cheshire and Central Motorway Police Group, as well as the North West Commercial Vehicle Unit.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Roads Policing, Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, said: “Operation Tramline is a successful collaboration between the police and Highways England.

“We remain committed to tackling those who take unnecessary risks with their own safety and the safety of others on our roads by allowing themselves to be distracted while driving. The consequences of these actions are often devastating.

“We will continue to work alongside Highways England on Operation Tramline and will prosecute drivers who ignore the risks.”

Marian Kitson, DVSA’s Director of Enforcement, said: “DVSA’s priority is protecting everyone from unsafe vehicles and drivers. We’re delighted to be a part of this key road safety exercise. During the week, DVSA will be carrying out safety checks on caravans and small trailers as well as our normal commercial vehicle and driver inspections.

“Many caravans and small trailers have been parked up over winter, so we’re urging drivers who are new to towing or haven’t towed for a while to carry out some simple checks.

“The DVSA caravan and small trailer checks, that we’ll carry out as part of Operation Vertebrae, should take around 20 minutes each. We’ll check safety features including lights, tyres, breakaway cable and brakes. If a caravan or small trailer isn’t safe, the driver will be unable to continue their journey until the defect is fixed.”