Belfast Telegraph

Community in ‘complete shock’ over truck driver’s arrest

There was no answer at the family home on Wednesday, with neighbours insisting no-one was in.

The lorry being moved from the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex (Aaron Chown/PA)
The lorry being moved from the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex (Aaron Chown/PA)

By David Young and Rebecca Black, PA

Residents of the rural village where Mo Robinson lived are hoping the truck driver is an innocent party in the container deaths horror, a councillor has said.

The community of Laurelvale in Co Armagh, where Mr Robinson’s parents live, was said to be in “complete shock” in the wake of his arrest on suspicion of the murder of the 39 Chinese nationals found dead in a refrigeration container at an industrial park in Essex.

Councillor Paul Berry said the family was very well respected in the area, and people were struggling to take in the enormity of Wednesday’s events in south-east England.

“In the local area the feeling is one of complete shock and hope this is not a true story in terms of his involvement,” he said.

Mr Robinson is understood to have moved to a house on the outskirts of nearby Markethill recently.

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Floral tributes at the Waterglade Industrial Park (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The detached property in the Co Armagh countryside and the semi-detached family home in a development in Laurelvale were searched by police officers from Northern Ireland on Wednesday night as part of the investigation led by Essex Police.

There was no answer at the family home throughout Wednesday, with neighbours insisting no-one was in.

On Thursday, a neighbour in Mullaghbrack Road, just outside Markethill, said Mr Robinson had only been living in the house for a few months.

He described the picturesque property as one of the original gate lodges for nearby Gosford Castle, adding that it had recently been renovated and placed on the market.

A property website contains a now expired listing for the house, which it called Drumlack Gate Lodge.

The neighbour said he had never spoken to Mr Robinson but had noticed the red lorry unit parked beside the house.

“If it had been a car I wouldn’t have noticed it, but the fact it was dominant beside that property, you tended to notice it,” he said.

The enormity of the sheer loss of life has been a shock to everyone DUP MLA William Irwin

Neighbours said they had not had the chance to get to know him yet. One said they knew him say hello to.

Another resident in the small gathering of houses said he knew of new residents having recently moved into the distinctive former gate lodge, but did not know them personally and had been shocked the night before to see a host of police officers entering the property.

Residents in Laurelvale appeared more reticent to talk about the events on Thursday.

Neighbours on the street where the Robinson family lives were quick to tell unfamiliar faces knocking at their door across the day that they were out.

DUP MLA William Irwin said locals felt uneasy at the level of attention, as well as the uncertainty around what was happening.

“The enormity of the sheer loss of life has been a shock to everyone,” he said.

“I don’t know the young man personally but I know members of the wider family who are very decent people.

“At this early stage we have to wait for the outcome before we can make any judgment.

“Police have a job to do so it is difficult to comment at this stage without knowing the circumstances.”

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People take part in a vigil outside Belfast City Hall for the 39 people found dead inside the lorry (David Young/PA)

The Robinson family are well known in the area and are heavily involved with local football club Laurelvale FC.

Mr Robinson’s passion for truck driving is clear from his social media posts.

Pictures of a red and white Scania feature prominently.

Like the vehicle at the centre of the police probe, it has an “ultimate dream” sticker on the windscreen.

The dog-loving trucker, who attended Southern Regional College in Co Armagh, is known to have worn a cowboy style hat when at the wheel.

Mr Berry has been in contact with Mr Robinson’s father several times since the arrest.

He said the father initially learned of his son’s detention through social media.

“He had said he had been getting messages via people on social media on what was happening and at that stage it was not confirmed to him or his family that his son had been arrested,” said the independent representative.

“The local community is hoping that he has been caught up innocently in this matter but that’s in the hands of Essex Police, and we will leave it in their professional hands to try to catch the perpetrators of this.”

Mr Berry, who expressed his sympathies for those who had died, said the Robinson family had been left upset by the “unwelcome spotlight” the incident had shone on them.

“It was very distressing for the family as they just felt they were captive in their own home,” he said.

PA

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