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Migrant deaths driver to sell 4×4 and watch to compensate victims’ families

By PA News

A lorry driver who found the bodies of 39 Vietnamese people in his trailer has to sell his 4×4 vehicle and watch to pay the victims’ families more than £21,000.

Maurice Robinson, 27, of Craigavon, in Northern Ireland, was jailed for 13 years and four months after admitting manslaughter and being part of a lucrative, people-smuggling operation.

He had been directed by his boss, Ronan Hughes, to give the migrants air but not let them out when he picked up a container transported from Zeebrugge to Purfleet in Essex on October 23 2019.

But when he opened the doors of the sealed trailer, he discovered the victims, two aged just 15, had all died in transit.

The HGV and trailer which Maurice Robinson was driving (Essex Police/PA)
The HGV and trailer which Maurice Robinson was driving (Essex Police/PA)

On Thursday, Robinson returned to the Old Bailey for a confiscation hearing before Judge Mark Lucraft QC.

The court heard he had benefitted from his criminal lifestyle to the sum of £50,000.

Prosecutor Jonathan Polnay told the court that Robinson only had assets worth a total of £21,262.

They included two accounts, more than £10,000 of equity in a property in Armagh, a 4×4 vehicle worth £2,000 and a £200 watch.

Judge Lucraft gave Robinson three months to get the money from the sale of the house, vehicle and watch to pay £21,262 or face eight months in jail.

The judge ordered the confiscated cash to be paid as compensation to the families of the 39 victims.

Robinson appeared in court by video link from Lowdham Grange jail in Nottinghamshire and spoke only to confirm his identity during the brief hearing.

His lawyer, Tyrone Smith QC, told the court that there was no objection to the orders which the prosecution had proposed.

Earlier this year, Hughes, 42, of Armagh, his partner in crime, Gheorghe Nica, 44, of Basildon, Essex, and lorry driver Eamonn Harrison, 24, of County Down, were also jailed for terms of up to 27 years for manslaughter and people-smuggling.

Three other men were also jailed for their lesser involvement.

The long-running, cross-Channel operation was said to be highly lucrative, with the gang standing to make more than £1 million in October 2019.

Police identified at least seven smuggling trips between May 2018 and October 23 2019, with migrants paying up to £13,000 for a “VIP” service.

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