28 Oct Essex lorry deaths: CCTV of moment driver discovered bodies in trailer shown at trial | UK News
CCTV footage of the moment a driver parked his lorry and trailer and discovered the bodies of 39 illegal Vietnamese migrants inside has been played in court.
Four men are on trial at the Old Bailey in connection with the deaths of the men, women and children, aged 15 to 44, who were found after the airtight trailer was transported by ferry from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Purfleet in Essex.
In the video from 23 October last year, lorry driver Maurice Robinson is seen walking to the back and opening the right hand door a little before vapour is seen rising from it in Eastern Avenue, Grays, at 1.13am.
Prosecutor Bill Emlyn Jones said Robinson made two calls to haulier Ronan Hughes who had earlier instructed him to “give them air quickly. Don’t let them out”.
Some 23 minutes after finding the bodies, Robinson dialled 999 at 1.36am.
The court was played an emergency call Robinson made in which he said: “They are all lying on the ground.”
The operator asked: “Are they breathing?”
Robinson: “No, I don’t think so. I heard a noise in the back, so I opened the door.”
Operator: “How many patients?”
Robinson: “About 25.”
Operator: “And they’re not breathing?”
Jurors were shown a screengrab from the phone of Robinson, who had collected the trailer from Purfleet port.
The prosecutor said it was a photograph of a text exchange he had on Snapchat with someone with the user name RHughes301.
It read: “Give them air quickly. Don’t let them out.” Robinson replied with a thumbs-up emoji, said the prosecutor.
Jurors were told the exchange happened sometime between midnight and 1.20am.
During the trial, the driver of a tug truck said in a statement he had lifted the trailer from the deck of the ship after it arrived at Purfleet port.
He said: “As I passed the doors and reached the left hand side of the trailer I suddenly caught a strong smell, a decomposing smell.”
The court was also told dying victims wrote desperate text messages to their families as the air ran out and the temperature rose to 38.5C.
A voice in the background on a video message said: “Come on everyone. Open up, open up.”
Jurors were told the ferry MV Clementine left the Belgian port at 4pm UK time for a journey that lasted more than eight hours.
The prosecutor said the temperature inside the trailer reached a maximum of 38.5C sometime after 9pm.
Jurors heard that between 10pm and 10.30pm the carbon dioxide (CO2) inside the trailer had reached its toxic threshold, though the prosecutor said that was not agreed evidence and the jury would hear from witnesses.
Eamonn Harrison, 23, a lorry driver from Northern Ireland who drove the trailer to the Zeebrugge ferry port, denies 39 manslaughter charges. He also denies a charge of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
Gheorghe Nica, 43, from Basildon, Essex, denies 39 manslaughter charges, but has admitted conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
Valentin Calota, 37, from Birmingham, and 23-year-old Christopher Kennedy, from Northern Ireland, deny conspiracy to assist illegal immigration.
Maurice Robinson, 25, from Northern Ireland, has admitted manslaughter, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property.
Ronan Hughes, 40, from Ireland, has admitted manslaughter and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
Gazmir Nuzi, 42, from north London, and Alexandru Hanga have admitted conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
The trial continues.