Man pleads guilty to manslaughter of 39 migrants found dead in lorry

A man has pleaded guilty to manslaughter of 39 migrants whose bodies were found in the back of a lorry in Grays, Essex.

The bodies were discovered inside a refrigerated lorry on the Waterglade Industrial Estate on Eastern Avenue during the early hours of Wednesday, October 23 last year.

Ten teenagers, including two 15-year-old boys, were among eight women and 31 males found dead inside the lorry.

Every single one of the victims were from Vietnam and a post-mortem examination revealed they died as a result of asphyxia and hypothermia – a lack of oxygen and overheating – in an enclosed space.

Forensics at the scene at the Waterglade Industrial Estate in Thurrock
(Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

Several people have been arrested and charged in connection with the incident.

Earlier today (Friday, August 28), Ronan Hughes, 40 of County Armagh, Northern Ireland, pleaded guilty to manslaughter at the Old Bailey in London.

He also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration between May 1 2018 and October 24 2019.

Eamonn Harrison, 23, of Mayobridge, Co Down, Northern Ireland appeared alongside Hughes and pleaded not guilty to 39 counts of manslaughter and one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Also appearing in connection to the incident at the Old Bailey was Gazmir Nuzi, 42, of Barclay Road, Tottenham, north London, who pleaded guilty to a single charge of assisting unlawful immigration on or before October 11 2019 and April 18 2020.

A number of police cars remain at the scene outside the Waterglade Industrial Estate in Thurrock
(Image: Essex Live)

Harrison will now face an Old Bailey trial on October 5 with three other defendants.

Gheorghe Nica, 43, of Langdon Hills, Basildon, Essex, who is alleged to have been a key player in the incident, previously denied 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Valentin Calota, 37, of Birmingham, and Christopher Kennedy, 23, of Co Armagh, Northern Ireland, both denied being part of a people smuggling conspiracy.

The four men were remanded into custody, with Mr Justice Sweeney confirming that the trial would go on for five weeks instead of eight.

A further hearing was fixed for September 21 for a pre-trial review.

Hughes is the second person to plead guilty to manslaughter, after Northern Irish driver Maurice Robinson pleaded guilty in April this year to 39 cases of manslaughter and one charge of transferring criminal property.

Essex Live