A Northern Irish man alleged to have delivered the trailer in which 39 migrants were found dead in Essex last year, will launch a legal challenge to his pending extradition in May.
Eamon Harrison, 22, from Mayobridge, Co Down, is wanted to face 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and conspiracy to commit human trafficking under the UK’s Modern Slavery Act.
It is alleged that Mr Harrison delivered the trailer, in which the bodies of eight females and 31 males were found in an industrial park in Grays, Esssex on October 23 last, to a Belgian port before it’s onward journey to Britain. The cargo was recorded as “biscuits”.
The High Court in Dublin has heard that the sealed refrigeration unit was not turned on and that the people inside died from oxygen starvation. Temperatures inside the unit rose to 38.5 degrees before it “steadily reduced”, and police discovered “bloody hand prints” inside.
Ordering Mr Harrison’s extradition to the UK in January, Mr Justice Donald Binchy said the British-Irish citizen is alleged to have been involved in transporting illegal migrants on two previous occasions, and that the trailer at the centre of the Essex discover was used on one of those occasions.
Lawyers for Mr Harrison were granted leave to appeal their client’s pending extradition on grounds that the case raised issues in law.
The Court of Appeal fixed May 7 next, as the date for the hearing of the challenge today.
Mr Harrison was not in court for the case management procedure.
In his judgment ordering Mr Harrison’s surrender in January, Mr Justice Binchy said other information regarding “the activities” of Mr Harrison had been provided to the High Court. These included allegations that Mr Harrison was previously involved in the “transportation of illegal migrants” from Zeebrugge Port in Belgium to Purfleet Port in Essex, England, on October 10th/11th 2019 and again on October 17th/18th, 2019.
“On the latter occasion, the same trailer as that used to transport the deceased migrants on 22nd/23rd October, 2019 was used. The respondent [Mr Harrison] was identified as being the driver,” the judge stated.
Mr Justice Binchy also said it’s alleged that the “available evidence” for all three of the “operations” in October 2019 “indicate that the illegal migrants were not free to walk away on their arrival into the UK; that they were collected by cars on their arrival, suggesting an intention to exploit those persons”.
The judge further noted that it's alleged that: “…on 9th May, 2018, the respondent [Mr Harrison] was stopped at Coquelles, France, driving a trailer unit in which 18 Vietnamese migrants were discovered.
In relation to the present alleged offence, Mr Justice Binchy said paramedics arrived at the scene in Essex to discover “39 bodies in the back of the trailer and all were dead. Mr [Maurice] Robinson was arrested on suspicion of murder. After Mr Robinson’s arrest, on the same day, [another named man] made a number of phone calls to the respondent [Eamon Harrison]. It is stated in the additional information that [this man] recruited Mr Robinson and the respondent in his haulage business.”
Maurice Robinson, 25, from Craigavon, Co Armagh, was arrested by Essex police at the scene and has admitted conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property - namely cash.