Second man from NI charged in connection with Essex migrant deaths; Two arrested in Vietnam

Ronan Hughes, and his brother Christopher, 34, both from Co Armagh were named earlier this week as people the police wanted to speak to in connection with the deaths.

Second man from NI charged in connection with Essex migrant deaths; Two arrested in Vietnam

Update: A Northern Irish man is facing multiple counts of manslaughter after UK authorities alleged that he delivered the trailer, in which 39 migrants were found dead last week, to a Belgian port before its onward journey to Britain.

Eamon Harrison, 22, from Mayobridge, Co Down, was arrested following the endorsement of a European Arrest Warrant and appeared before Mr Justice Donald Binchy in the High Court this morning.

It follows the endorsement of a European Arrest Warrant for Mr Harrison yesterday.

The court heard that Mr Harrison was arrested in the holdings cells of the Criminal Courts of Justice in Parkgate Street, Dublin 2, this morning at 10.15am.

Sergeant Jim Kirwan gave evidence of his arrest and told the court that there are 41 offences in the warrant for Mr Harrison.

They include 39 manslaughter charges, conspiracy to commit a human trafficking under section 2 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration under section 25 of the Immigration Act 1971.

Outlining the offences facing Mr Harrison, Sgt Kirwan read from the warrant. He said: “The case against Eamon Harrison relates to the trafficking and subsequent deaths of 39 people within an artic trailer unit.

“At 1.38am on Wednesday, 23rd of October 2019, Essex Police received a call from the East of England Ambulance Service stating they were getting reports of 25 illegal immigrants not breathing within a lorry in the area of Eastern Avenue, Waterglade Industrial, West Thurrock, Essex.

“Police attended the scene. The driver of the lorry was standing at the back of the trailer. He was later identified as Maurice Robinson.

“Inside the trailer was a total of 39 people, 8 females and 31 males who were all deceased.

“Enquiries revealed that the trailer unit had been delivered by a lorry to Zeebrugge, Belgium before being transported to the UK where it was collected by Maurice Robinson from the Port of Purfleet, Essex.

“On 22nd of October 2019, Eamon Harrison had been identified as the driver of the lorry which was used to deliver the trailer unit to the port in Zeebrugge.

“CCTV, taken several hours before at a truck stop in Veurne, Belgium shows Eamon Harrison to be the driver of the lorry.

“That lorry deposited the trailer unit at Zeebrugge for its onward transmission to Purfleet, Essex.

“A shipping notice provided at Zeebrugge when the tractor unit arrived at the gate was signed in the name ‘Eamon Harrison’.

“Eamon Harrison travelled back to Ireland in the lorry via a ferry from Cherbourg, France.”

Meanwhile, authorities in Vietnam say they have arrested two people.

Most of those who died in the incident are thought to be from the country.

- Additional reporting Olga Cronin

Earlier: Police speak with Armagh man wanted in connection with Essex migrant deaths

Christopher Hughes, 34 and Ronan Hughes, 40, from Co Armagh
Christopher Hughes, 34 and Ronan Hughes, 40, from Co Armagh

Detectives have revealed they have spoken by telephone to one of the brothers wanted over the deaths of 39 migrants found in the back of a lorry in Essex.

Ronan Hughes, 40, and Christopher Hughes, 34, from Co Armagh, have been urged to hand themselves in to police.

The pair are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking after the bodies of eight women and 31 men were found in a refrigerated trailer attached to a lorry in an industrial park in Grays in the early hours of Wednesday October 23.

Reports suggested Ronan Hughes phoned police moments after lorry driver Mo Robinson, 25, was arrested following the discovery.

Essex Police Detective Chief Inspector Daniel Stoten told reporters at a press conference in Northern Ireland on Friday: “Today I want to make a direct appeal – Ronan and Christopher, hand yourselves in to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

“We need you both to come forward and assist this investigation. Although we have already spoken to Ronan Hughes recently by telephone we need to have a conversation with him and his brother in person.

“Talking to Ronan and Christopher is crucial to our investigation and the sooner we can make this happen the sooner we can progress and continue with our investigation.”

The detective said a lorry believed to be connected to the brothers was stopped and seized by the PSNI on Thursday, but no further arrests were made

Mo Robinson in court (Elizabeth Cook/PA)
Mo Robinson in court (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Robinson, of Craigavon, Northern Ireland, appeared at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on Monday charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration, and money laundering.

Three other people arrested in connection with the incident – two men aged 38 and 46 and a 38-year-old woman – have been released on bail.

The discovery has sparked a huge international investigation to try to identify the victims.

Essex Police initially believed the 39 were all Chinese nationals, but Vietnamese men and women are feared to be among the dead.

- Additional reporting Press Association

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