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Lorry driver remanded over deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants in container

Eamonn Harrison, of Mayobridge, Co Down, is charged with 39 counts of manslaughter.

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The industrial park in Essex where the migrants were found (Aaron Chown/PA)

The industrial park in Essex where the migrants were found (Aaron Chown/PA)

The industrial park in Essex where the migrants were found (Aaron Chown/PA)

A lorry driver has appeared in court charged with the manslaughter of 39 Vietnamese migrants who were found dead inside a container in Essex.

Eamonn Harrison, 23, of Mayobridge, Co Down, Northern Ireland, was extradited from Ireland to the UK on Wednesday and appeared before Southend Magistrates’ Court for a virtual hearing on Thursday.

He is alleged to have driven the lorry trailer to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge before it sailed to Purfleet in England.

Harrison is charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and one count of conspiracy to traffic people.

He was not asked to enter pleas and was remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on August 20.

The bodies of the Vietnamese nationals were discovered on an industrial estate in Grays shortly after the container arrived in Purfleet on a ferry in the early hours of October 23 last year.

Among the men, women and children were 10 teenagers, two of them 15-year-old boys.

An inquest heard that their medical cause of death was asphyxia and hyperthermia – a lack of oxygen and overheating – in an enclosed space.

The lorry’s driver, Maurice Robinson, 25, who took the container from the port where it arrived in Essex, admitted 39 counts of manslaughter at the Old Bailey in April after previously pleading guilty to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Robinson, of Craigavon in Northern Ireland, also admitted acquiring criminal property, but denied a further charge of transferring criminal property.

PA