Essex lorry deaths: Seven sentenced in Vietnam for organising illegal passage

15 September 2020, 18:46 | Updated: 15 September 2020, 18:52

The bodies of 39 people were found in a lorry in Essex last year
The bodies of 39 people were found in a lorry in Essex last year. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Four people in Vietnam have been jailed for their part in the deaths of 39 migrants who died in the back of a refridgerated lorry in Essex, local reports have said.

According to local media, six men and one woman were charged with "organising and brokering illegal" immigration by Ha Tinh provincial court in central Vietnam.

The four who were jailed - who range in age from 26 to 36 - received jail sentences ranging from five to seven and a half years.

The other defendants received probation for orchestrating the smuggling of 26-year-old Pham Thi Tra - one of the women who died in the tragedy.

Read more: 26 arrested in France and Belgium in connection with Essex lorry deaths

They were accused of receiving about £16,000 to take the woman from her home town in Ha Tinh province to China, where they used a false passport to travel to France before loading her into a container truck to enter the UK last October.

From the sealed container, Ms My sent a string of texts to her mother in Vietnam saying "I can't breathe", typing out her name and home address before passing out.

Vietnamese Trafficking Expert Explains Why Essex Lorry Victims Paid To Come To UK

Authorities identified the rest of the victims as Vietnamese nationals who left the country to find better opportunities in Western countries.

"My brother died in a horrible way and I hope others will learn from this," said Hoang Thi Lanh, sister of 18-year-old Hoang Van Tiep, one of the victims.

The driver of the lorry, 25-year-old Maurice Robinson, of County Armagh in Northern Ireland, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in April this year.

Read more: 'Driver' pictured after being arrested on suspicion of murder

Accomplice Ronan Hughes, 40, from County Monaghan in Ireland, also pleaded guilty to manslaughter last month.

The case drew international attention and has forced Vietnam to step up controls on human smuggling issues.

The bodies of the 39 victims were discovered on an industrial estate in Grays, Essex, shortly after the lorry arrived in Purfleet on a ferry in the early hours of 23 October last year.

Among the men, women and children were 10 teenagers, two of them 15-year-old boys.