Belfast Telegraph

Essex lorry deaths: Northern Ireland 'mastermind' bought two phones from nearby shopping centre before bodies found

39 people were found dead inside the lorry at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex (Aaron Chown/PA)
39 people were found dead inside the lorry at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex (Aaron Chown/PA)

A Co Armagh man suspected of masterminding the Essex human trafficking tragedy bought two phones from a nearby shopping centre four days before the bodies of the 39 migrants were discovered, it has been claimed.

Ronan Hughes, 40, along with his younger brother Christopher, are being sought by Essex Police on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking.

Ronan Hughes
Ronan Hughes

The Sun reports Ronan Hughes purchased the pay as you go mobiles from an 02 shop at Lakeside shopping centre, Thurrock, Essex, before the bodies of the Vietnamese migrants were found in the nearby Grays industrial estate.

Police believe the purchases suggest Hughes was in the area orchestrating the human cargo being delivered from Zeebrugge in Belgium.

It is claimed Hughes returned to the 02 shop at 6pm on October 23, the day the migrants were found, and bought another mobile phone.

It is understood he used one of the phones to speak with police following the gruesome discovery of the bodies.

A source told the newspaper: "There is CCTV footage of Ronan Hughes going to Lakeside shopping centre and buying phones four days in advance of the trailer being discovered with the bodies inside.

Christopher Hughes
Christopher Hughes

"He also went back to the shop later on the day the bodies were found.

"The police think it suggest that Ronan was on the ground overseeing the whole human trafficking operation."

The brothers, from Co Armagh, are understood to be in Northern Ireland but have links to the Republic of Ireland.

The driver of the lorry, Maurice Robinson, from Craigavon, has been charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, human trafficking and money laundering. He has been remanded in prison.

Eamon Harrison, 22, from Mayobridge in Co Down, has appeared at the High Court in Dublin over a European Arrest Warrant to have him extradited to the UK.

He faces being extradited after allegedly delivering the trailer the migrants were found in to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge before its onward journey to Britain.

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