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Migrants-case driver caught earlier

A lorry driver accused of being part of a "large and organised" people smuggling gang was caught trying to transport illegal immigrants into the UK 11 days before a man was found dead inside a shipping container, a court has heard.

Four men are standing trial at Basildon Crown Court after denying organising the operation which was detected when 35 Afghan Sikhs, including 15 children, were found inside the container at Tilbury Docks, Essex, on August 16. Among them was Meet Singh Kapoor, 40, who had died in the overnight crossing from Zeebrugge, Belgium.

Today prosecutor Michael Goodwin outlined how defendant Timothy Murphy had been fined £5,000 after UK officials found 12 Afghans in a locker inside a lorry transporting frozen chips as he attempted to re-enter the UK through Coquelles, France, on August 5.

He added: "This was not a case of an energetic migrant chasing after and jumping on board in an attempt to smuggle their way on board.

"There were 12 people inside that locker - they did not end up there by chance."

Mr Goodwin said lorry drivers have a responsibility to check their vehicles for people attempting to smuggle themselves on board but officials have the discretion not to issue a fine under civil procedures if they believe the driver is an innocent party.

He added that as Murphy drove the lorry to Coquelles he was in regular contact with fellow defendants Stephen McLaughlin and Martin McGlinchey. McLaughlin was responsible for making the booking for the planned crossing.

The immigrants were found when UK border officials selected the vehicle for a "heart-beat" check which uses specialist equipment to identify any individuals hidden on-board.

McLaughlin, 34, of Limavady, Londonderry; Murphy, 33, of Elmgrove, Londonderry; McGlinchey, 47, of Derryloughan Road, Coalisland, County Tyrone; and Taha Sharif, 38, who is Kurdish and lived in Tottenham, London, at the time, have all pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to facilitate illegal entry into the UK.

Many of the second group of migrants, whose ages ranged from 16 months to 72 years old, had fled persecution in their homeland before linking up in Europe.

Earlier Mr Goodwin said this attempt was uncovered when dock workers heard noises inside the container. When they opened it, they found the people inside distressed and struggling to breathe.

He said the defendants were involved in at least two attempts to smuggle people into UK, taking "significant risks" to make "substantial financial gains" as part of an organised crime syndicate.


From Belfast Telegraph