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Essex lorry deaths trial: Migrants told families they were taking ‘VIP’ trip to UK, court hears

Some of the 39 migrants found dead in a lorry container in Essex had told their families they were taking a “VIP” trip to the UK, a court has heard.

The bodies of the Vietnamese nationals were discovered at an industrial estate in Greys on 23 October last year.

Four men are on trial at the Old Bailey charged in connection with the deaths – including two men, lorry driver Eamonn Harrison and Gheorghe Nica, who are accused of 39 counts of manslaughter.

On Thursday, the court heard details of how many of the migrants, aged 15 to 44, had travelled from Vietnam to different parts of Europe to find work before telling their families they planned to travel to the UK.

Some of the migrants had asked their families for £10,000 to pay for the trip, jurors were told.

Among the migrants were a university graduate, a bricklayer, a hairdresser, and restaurant and nail bar workers, the Old Bailey was told.

One of the migrants, a 35-year-old man, had been “arrested by French police twice in his attempts to reach the UK”, prosecutor Jonathan Polnay said.

The migrant – who had travelled from Vietnam to Germany before moving to France – told his wife he was travelling to the UK by “VIP option” and asked to borrow £10,000, Mr Polnay added.

Another of the migrants, a 25-year-old man, had travelled to Russia and made arrangements to go Germany before telling his family his was going to the UK by “VIP” channel, the court heard.

The family of an 18-year-old migrant had been contacted asking them to prepare £10,500 to pay for his travel to the UK, jurors were told.

His trip to the UK was using the “VIP option, which is explained by his family member as travelling by a four-seater car”, the prosecutor said.

The migrants also included an 19-year-old man who said he was travelling to the UK to work in a restaurant or nail salon; a married couple who had been working in Hungary; and an 18-year-old who had flown from Vietnam to Russia on a tourist visa before travelling to France to find work, the court heard.

Post-mortem examinations found the cause of death for all 39 migrants was “asphyxia (i.e suffocation due to lack of oxygen) with hyperthermia (an increased body temperature) in an enclosed space”.

Nica, 43, of Basildon, Essex, and Harrison, 23, of Mayobridge, Co Down, Northern Ireland, deny 39 counts of manslaughter.

Harrison also denies conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration, along with Valentin Calota, 37, and Christopher Kennedy, 24, who face the same charge.

Nica has admitted the conspiracy charge.

Jurors have heard that lorry driver Maurice Robinson and haulage boss Ronan Hughes have previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

The trial continues.

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