CHELMSFORD, England—A court heard on Oct. 28 that a global ring had been involved in smuggling the 39 people whose bodies were found in a truck near London, as the driver faced charges of manslaughter and people-trafficking.
The discovery of the bodies last week in a refrigerated truck on an industrial estate near London has shone a spotlight on the illicit trade that sends the poor of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East on perilous journeys to the West.
The trucks driver, Maurice Robinson, appeared in Chelmsford Magistrates Court via video link. The 25-year-old, wearing a gray sweatshirt, spoke only to confirm his name, address, and British nationality.
Robinson faces 43 charges in all—39 counts of manslaughter as well as accusations of conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration, and money laundering.
“This involves a global ring facilitating the movement of a large number of immigrants into the UK,” prosecution lawyer Ogheneruona Mercy Iguyovwe told the court. She said other suspects were still being sought.
Robinson didnt apply for bail. He was remanded in custody until Nov. 25, when the case will continue at the Old Bailey, Londons Central Criminal Court, and he will enter a plea.
He was arrested shortly after the bodies were found near the English port of Purfleet. The shipping container they were in had traveled from Zeebrugge in Belgium.
Hoping for a Better Life
“The whole nation and indeed the world has been shocked by this tragedy, and the cruelty of the fate that has been suffered by innocent people who were hoping for a better life in this country,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote in a book of condolences.
Interior minister Priti Patel told parliament the investigation would unravel “criminality that could stretch halfway across the world.”
Many of the dead appear to have come from Vietnams northern rice-growing areas of Nghe An and Ha Tinh, two of its poorest provinces.
“If I could travel back in time, I wouldnt have let him go this way,” said Hoang Thi Ai, mother of Hoang Van Tiep, 18, who is feared to be among the dead. “I clean his room every day with the hope that he wasnt in that deadly truck.”
Police said few of the victims were carrying official identification, and that theyre resorting to fingerprints, dental records, DNA and photographs from friends and relatives.
Vietnam said Britain sent dossiers seeking help in identifying four of the bodies.
Deputy Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son said Vietnam was still unable to confirm the nationality of any of the victims.
My Child Was Scammed
Bui Thi Nhung, 19, is believed by her family to be one of the dead.
They said she had left Nghe An in August, making her way from China to Germany, then Belgium, where they believe she entered the container.
About 70 percent of Vietnamese trafficking cases in BRead More – Source