Essex lorry deaths: Ronan Hughes pleads guilty to manslaughter of 39 migrants

28 August 2020, 15:27

Ronan Hughes pleaded guilty to manslaughter
Ronan Hughes pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Picture: PA

A Northern Irish haulier has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of dozens of migrants who were found dead in the back of a lorry container in Essex.

Ronan Hughes, 40, of Co Armagh, entered the plea at the Old Bailey on Friday, where he also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

He had previously been extradited to the UK from the Republic of Ireland to face charges over the deaths of 39 migrants in October last year.

Prosecutors have argued that Hughes played a leading role in the incident, with his road haulage business being used to transport humans.

The bodies were found in the back of a lorry container in Essex
The bodies were found in the back of a lorry container in Essex. Picture: PA

The bodies of the migrants - all Vietnamese nationals - were found in the back of a container in an industrial estate in Grays shortly after disembarking a ferry from Belgium.

An inquest later heard they had died from asphyxia and hyperthermia in enclosed space.

Appearing alongside Hughes on Friday was Eamonn Harrison, 23, of Mayobridge, Co Down, Northern Ireland, who is said to have driven the lorry trailer to the ferry port in Zeebrugge, Belgium.

He pleaded not guilty to 39 counts of manslaughter and one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Gazmir Nuzi, 42, of Barclay Road, Tottenham, also appeared via video link to plead guilty to a single charge of assisting unlawful immigration.

The series of pleas come four months after lorry driver, Maurice 'Mo' Robinson, also admitted to 39 counts of manslaughter, having earlier pleaded guilty to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property.

Romanian Alexandru-Ovidiu Hanga, 28, of Hobart Road in Essex, admitted one count of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration back in June.

Harrison will now face trial with three other defendants, beginning on 5 October, and is expected to go on for five weeks.

Another hearing has been scheduled for 21 September for a pre-trial review.

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