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Essex lorry deaths driver Mo Robinson was promised £60k pay day for smuggling tragic immigrants into UK


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Charged: lorry driver Maurice Robinson

Charged: lorry driver Maurice Robinson

Charged: lorry driver Maurice Robinson

Mass killer Maurice 'Mo' Robinson was to be paid almost £60,000 for smuggling 39 illegal immigrants into the UK who were found dead in the back of his lorry.

In statements to police, detailed for the first time, the 25-year-old Co Armagh man named Co Monaghan haulier Ronan Hughes as having previously paid him to traffick people from mainland Europe.

Robinson, who pleaded guilty to 39 counts of manslaughter last Wednesday and has admitted assisting unlawful immigration and money laundering, confessed to making tens of thousands of pounds from the shameful arrangement.

Detectives believe this is how the trucker was able to afford an impressive detached home in the village of Laurelvale on the outskirts of Portadown despite having only a modest income.

Court documents reveal: "Mr Robinson has admitted, at interview, to smuggling migrants into the UK on several occasions, and having been paid, by Ronan Hughes £1,500 per person smuggled."

By his own calculations this means that Robinson was set to rake in £58,500 had the 39 Vietnamese nationals, some of whom were children, not suffocated to death last October.

Hughes - the suspected smuggling mastermind named by Robinson - has refused repeated requests to cross the border to speak to UK police.

Detectives want to question the 40-year-old over allegations the trailer in which the 39 immigrants perished was leased by him.

Court documents also confirm that mobile phone records show Hughes was in contact with Mo Robinson "throughout October" - the time of the smuggling scam.

These Irish High Court papers relate to another lorry driver, Eamonn Harrison from Mayobrige in Co Down, who is fighting extradition from Ireland to the UK.

The 23-year-old faces 39 charges of manslaughter, as well as conspiracy to traffick people and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

He is alleged to have driven the trailer in which the 39 dead immigrants were found to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge, before it sailed to Purfleet in England where it was collected by Robinson.

The emergency services were contacted shortly after 1.30am on October 23 by a panicked Robinson who reported that there were people inside who were not breathing. The soon to be father was arrested and has been in custody since.

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Police secure the truck in which 39 dead bodies were discovered

Police secure the truck in which 39 dead bodies were discovered

AFP via Getty Images

Police secure the truck in which 39 dead bodies were discovered

Lorry driver Robinson's guilty pleas to 39 counts of manslaughter puts him among the UK's biggest mass killers. He now faces the prospect of years behind bars when he is sentenced.

Other details about Mo Robinson's links to Ronan Hughes and people smuggling are outlined in Eamonn Harrison's High Court documents.

They explain how both were "recruited" by Hughes into his haulage business, which detectives believe was a front for trafficking poor illegal immigrants seeking work in England.

The court papers also show the agonising deaths suffered by the immigrants. The 39 manslaughter victims died of oxygen starvation and hypothermia, with bloody handprints being found by scene of crime officers on the inside of the locked trailer doors.

Most are believed to have suffocated while being ferried across the English Channel. This is based on the times of mobile phone messages and audio recordings to family back in Vietnam explaining how they were struggling to breathe.

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Victim Pham Tra My

Victim Pham Tra My

Victim Pham Tra My

The family of Pham Thi Tra My (26), one of the dead, revealed the frightening texts she had sent while crammed inside the trailer and struggling for air.

Her dad, Pham Van Thin, said they had paid £30,000 after being assured their beloved daughter would be transported safely.

He explained: "The smugglers said that this was a safe route, that people would go by airplane, car, if I had known she would go by this route, I would not have let her go. I've lost both my loved one and my money."

Pham Thi Tra My's last message to her parents read: "I'm sorry Dad and Mom. The way I went overseas was not successful. Mom, I love Dad and you so much. I'm dying because I can't breathe."

Robinson's smuggling gang knew the deadly risks of cramming dozens of desperate immigrants into refrigerated trailers - but for them the huge profits to be made was worth more than a life.

In the multiple killer's statements to police he confessed to first trafficking people into the UK in May 2018.

With a payment of £1,500 for every person brought to English shores it was not long before Robinson amassed enough cash to buy an impressive £160,000 home in Co Armagh in which he lived with his pregnant partner.

Neighbours were shocked when he was arrested and charged with the mass killings, offering their support as his parents are well-respected.

However, those feelings have now changed to anger after Robinson's guilty pleas and the realisation he was leading a disgraceful double life.

One local who spoke to Sunday Life said: "He pulled the wool over everyone's eyes. There is still a sense of shock that someone from this area could be involved in the killings of 39 people.

"What has really annoyed the community is that after Mo was arrested nearly everyone here came out in support of him. He has deceived us all."

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Court artist sketch of lorry driver Maurice Robinson (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Court artist sketch of lorry driver Maurice Robinson (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Court artist sketch of lorry driver Maurice Robinson (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

When Robinson entered his guilty pleas to 39 counts of manslaughter he was joined in court by four other co-defendants.

Christopher Kennedy (23), of Corkley Road in Darkley, Co Armagh, Northern Ireland, denies conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

So too do Romanian nationals Gheorghe Nica (43), Alexandru-Ovidiu Hanga (27), and Valentin Calota (37). Nica has also pleaded not guilty to 39 counts of manslaughter.

They each face an October trial at the Old Bailey in London lasting up to eight weeks.

Belfast Telegraph