Northern Ireland man charged over lorry deaths admits plotting to assist illegal immigration
A Northern Ireland lorry driver accused over the deaths of 39 migrants has pleaded guilty to plotting to assist illegal immigration.
Maurice 'Mo' Robinson (25), who was allegedly part of a global smuggling ring, is charged with the manslaughter of a group of men, women and children found dead in a refrigerated trailer.
The bodies of eight females and 31 males were discovered in the trailer attached to his Scania cab in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, early on October 23.
The victims were later identified as coming from various provinces of Vietnam, with the youngest being two boys aged 15.
Robinson, who is known as Mo, appeared at the Old Bailey via video link from Belmarsh prison for a plea hearing.
Wearing a light blue sweater and tan trousers, he spoke to confirm his identity and British nationality.
During the hearing before Mr Justice Edis, he admitted conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration between May 1, 2018 and October 24, 2019.
The charge states that he plotted with others to do "an act or series of acts which facilitated the commission of a breach of immigration law by various persons".
He also admitted acquiring criminal property - namely cash - on the same dates.
The defendant, of Laurel Drive in Craigavon, was not asked to enter pleas to other charges, including 39 counts of manslaughter.
He is charged with conspiracy to commit human trafficking offences between May 1, 2018 and October 24, 2019.
The details of that charge state that he "arranged or facilitated the travel of other persons into the UK with a view to their being exploited".
He is also charged with transferring criminal property.
The defendant was remanded into custody until a further hearing on December 13.
Separately, another Co Armagh man was remanded in custody charged with human trafficking offences linked to the Essex lorry tragedy.
Lorry driver Christopher Kennedy (23) was arrested in the early hours of Friday morning on the M40 in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire.
The defendant, from Darkley, appeared before Chelmsford Magistrates Court charged with conspiracy to commit a human trafficking offence.
It is alleged that he conspired to arrange or facilitate the travel of other people with a view to exploitation.
He is also charged with conspiring to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK immigration law.
It is alleged that he did this between May 1, 2018 and October 24 this year at Purfleet in Essex.
Kennedy was not asked for pleas during yesterday's hearing.
He spoke only to give his name, age, address and to state his nationality as British.
He was also remanded in custody to appear before the Old Bailey on December 13.