Man to appear in court on Monday over Essex lorry deaths

A Northern Ireland man will appear in court on Monday charged with human trafficking offences linked to the deaths of 39 migrants discovered in a refrigerated lorry in Essex.

Christopher Kennedy was arrested in the early hours of Friday morning on the M40.

The 23-year-old from Darkley, Co Armagh, will face charges at Chelmsford magistrates’ court of conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of people with a view to exploitation and conspiracy to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK immigration law.

Kennedy’s arrest comes after it emerged that one of the teenagers found dead in the trailer in an industrial park in Grays had gone missing from an asylum centre in the Netherlands.

The country’s Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA told local media that the teenager had run away from a shelter for vulnerable migrants. The agency would not give details about the name or age of the teenager.

Ten teenagers, including two 15-year-old boys, were among those whose bodies were discovered in the early hours of 23 October, shortly after the lorry arrived on a ferry from Zeebrugge in Belgium. All were Vietnamese nationals.

The driver, Maurice Robinson, 25, from Northern Ireland, is expected to appear at the Old Bailey on Monday charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering.

Extradition proceedings have begun in Ireland to bring Eamonn Harrison, 22, from Mayobridge in Newry, Co Down, to the UK. He appeared at Dublin’s central criminal court on Thursday after he was arrested on a European arrest warrant in respect of 39 counts of manslaughter, one count of human trafficking and one count of assisting unlawful immigration.

Detectives have also urged Ronan Hughes, 40, and his brother Christopher, 34, from Armagh, Northern Ireland, to hand themselves in. They are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking. The pair are originally from Co Armagh in Northern Ireland and have links with the road haulage and shipping industries.

Last weekend an Irish Sunday tabloid revealed that Ronan Hughes, had been living openly at his home in Co Monaghan in the Irish Republic. The Garda Síochána cannot arrest or question him or his brother until Essex police issue a European arrest warrant, which if successful would enable the force to extradite them to the UK.

Ireland’s justice minister, Charlie Flanagan, called this weekend for strengthened security at Irish ports to combat human trafficking.

Last Thursday 16 men were found in a sealed truck on a ferry sailing from the French port of Cherbourg to Rosslare on the south-east Irish coast. The 16 including two juveniles are believed to be of Kurdish origin from Iran and Iraq. After being discovered they claimed asylum in Ireland.

Flanagan said Ireland and Britain needed to co-operate more to curb the “scourge of human trafficking” and expressed concern that Ireland was seen by people smugglers as a backdoor to Britain.