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I pity convicted men, says father whose son died in migrants lorry

Manslaughter pair should not get life in jail, bereaved parent urges

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Heartbreak: Grieving father Nguyen Dinh Gia holds a photo of his 20-year-old son, Nguyen Dinh Luong, at his home in Vietnam

Heartbreak: Grieving father Nguyen Dinh Gia holds a photo of his 20-year-old son, Nguyen Dinh Luong, at his home in Vietnam

AFP via Getty Images

Heartbreak: Grieving father Nguyen Dinh Gia holds a photo of his 20-year-old son, Nguyen Dinh Luong, at his home in Vietnam

The father of one of the 39 Vietnamese migrants who suffocated in the back of a lorry as they were being smuggled into Britain has said he feels nothing but pity for the men convicted of manslaughter over the deaths.

The bodies of the men and women, all aged between 15 and 44, were found inside a sealed container near London in October 2019, after they suffocated.

The migrants died in the back of a lorry driven by Maurice Robinson, from Laurelvale near Portadown. Their bodies were discovered shortly after he picked up the trailer off a cross-channel ferry from Zeebrugge at Purfleet in Essex.

Last Monday, Romanian ringleader Gheorghe Nica, (43), from Basildon, and lorry driver Eamonn Harrison (24), from Co Down, were found guilty of 39 counts of manslaughter.

The jury, which deliberated for nearly 23 hours, also convicted them of a wider people-smuggling plot with lorry driver Christopher Kennedy (24), from Co Armagh, and Valentin Calota (38), from Birmingham.

In total, eight people have been convicted in Britain, including haulier boss and convicted cigarette smuggler Ronan Hughes (41), of Armagh, and 26-year-old Robinson, who admitted manslaughter.

They will be sentenced over three days in January at the Old Bailey.

Despite his loss, Nguyen Dinh Gia, father of 20-year-old Nguyen Dinh Luong, expressed sympathy for the men.

"I think they only did it because they wanted to make ends meet," he said from his home in a small village in Vietnam's Ha Tinh province.

"I don't think it's appropriate to give them a harsh (punishment like) a life sentence.

"I feel sorry for them."

However, Le Minh Tuan, whose 30-year-old son Le Van Ha was another of the victims, hailed the court verdict as "right".

"I think the decision of the UK court that convicted two men of manslaughter is right," he said from his home village in Nghe An province.

"If they had given the migrants inside some air, those people wouldn't have died.

"In this case, I think the driver knew, but he kept running the truck and did not give the air to people inside."

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Co Down lorry driver Eamonn Harrison, who was convicted of manslaughter

Co Down lorry driver Eamonn Harrison, who was convicted of manslaughter

Co Down lorry driver Eamonn Harrison, who was convicted of manslaughter

The bodies were discovered at Purfleet in Essex after being sealed inside the container for at least 12 hours during transit from mainland Europe.

A forensic expert calculated it would have taken about nine hours for the air to turn toxic in the trailer.

Prosecutors have said the trapped Vietnamese were unable to get a phone signal inside the container.

Mobile phones recovered from the bodies of the 39 victims showed they had tried to raise the alarm and left messages for their families as they ran out of air.

The case highlighted the vast and unscrupulous people trafficking networks spanning the globe.

Many of the victims had come from poor parts of Vietnam and were plunged into thousands of dollars of debt to smugglers to pay for the dangerous journeys.

Last week's convictions brought the total number found guilty in connection with the case in the UK to eight.

Prosecutors at the trial said the people smuggling ring had been motivated by greed, and are considering charges against a further three people.

Belfast Telegraph


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