A man found dead inside a shipping container as a people-smuggling gang attempted to sneak immigrants into the UK may have been killed by the stress of the journey, a court has heard.
Three men from Northern Ireland and a Kurd living in London deny 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.
The accused are Stephen McLaughlin (34) of Limavady, Co Londonderry; Timothy Murphy (33) of Elmgrove, also Derry; Martin McGlinchey (47) of Derrylaughan Road, Coalisland, Co Tyrone, and Taha Sharif (38), who is Kurdish, have all pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to facilitate illegal entry into the UK.
Yesterday at Basildon Crown Court prosecutor Michael Goodwin told jurors that a forensic examination and post-mortem revealed Mr Singh Kapoor died from an attack brought about by the irregular beating of his heart.
He described how the immigrants had been found distressed and struggling to breathe in cramped and damp conditions with just four foot of head space.
"The pathologist concluded the stress of being held in such conditions could have caused such an irregularity of the heart," Mr Goodwin added.
The prosecutor said investigators had found the container loaded with barrels of a "water-based liquid" to give the "appearance of a legitimate load" of alcohol.
Some had been opened, suggesting those inside had attempted to drink the liquid. However, there was no evidence this could have contributed to Mr Singh Kapoor's death.
The trial is expected to last until mid-July.