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Two men found guilty of manslaughter of 39 Vietnamese migrants in Grays

39 Vietnamese nationals suffocated inside an airtight lorry container in October 2019 (credit: Essex Police)

Two men have been found guilty of killing 39 Vietnamese people who were found dead in the back of a lorry in Grays. 

The migrants, aged between 15 and 44-years-old, suffocated inside the lorry container while travelling from Zeebrugge to Purfleet in October last year. 

Eamonn Harrison, 24, from Northern Ireland, and Gheorghe Nica, 43, of Basildon, were found guilty of 39 counts of manslaughter and one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration by a jury at the Old Bailey today. 

Nica at a convenience store in Thurrock (credit: Essex Police)

Christopher Kennedy, 24, and Valentin Calota, 38, were both found guilty for their role in smuggling the migrants into the country. 

Lorry driver Maurice Robinson, transport fixer Ronan Hughes and drivers Alexandru-Ovidiu Hanga and Gazmir Nuzi previously pleaded guilty to various charges brought against them.

They will all be sentenced at a later date. 

Harrison at a truck stop in Belgium (credit: Essex Police)

The 39 Vietnamese nationals were found unresponsive inside the lorry by its driver, Maurice Robinson, in Eastern Avenue, Grays, during the early hours of Wednesday, 23 October 2019. 

Essex Police arrested Robinson at the scene and launched an investigation into the smuggling network.

Officers discovered Hughes and Nica had overseen two earlier journeys that month in which people had been brought into the country. 

They had been assisted by two lorry drivers, Harrison and Kennedy, and a number of other drivers who picked up passengers from a pre-arranged drop-off site in Thurrock and transported them to several locations across London. 

Kennedy at Purfleet (credit: Essex Police)

“This story started almost eight thousand miles away,” said Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Daniel Stoten. 

“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.”

For more on this story, and the latest on our other local and national news, listen to Time 107.5FM

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