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Lorry driver pleads guilty to assisting illegal immigration in case of 39 deaths in Essex

Maurice Robinson faced 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Court sketch of Maurice Robinson.
Court sketch of Maurice Robinson.
Image: Elizabeth Cook/PA Images

Updated Nov 25th 2019, 10:25 AM

A LORRY DRIVER has pleaded guilty to plotting to assist illegal immigration in the case of 39 migrants found dead in Essex last month. 

Maurice Robinson, 25, who was allegedly part of a global smuggling ring, had been charged with the manslaughter of a group of men, women and children found dead in a refrigerated trailer.

The bodies of eight females and 31 males were discovered in the trailer attached to his Scania cab in an industrial park in Grays, Essex early on 23 October.

The victims were later identified as coming from various provinces of Vietnam with the youngest being two boys aged 15.

Robinson, who is known as Mo, faces 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

He was also charged with acquiring criminal property and one count of concealing criminal property.

The defendant, of Laurel Drive in Craigavon in Northern Ireland, appeared at the Old Bailey via video link from Belmarsh prison for a plea hearing this morning.

Wearing a light blue sweater and tan trousers, he spoke to confirm his identity and British nationality.

During the hearing before Mr Justice Edis, he admitted conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration between 1 May 2018 and 24 October 2019.

The charge states that he plotted with others to do “an act or series of acts which facilitated the commission of a breach of immigration law by various persons”.

He also admitted acquiring criminal property – namely cash – on the same dates.

Robinson was not asked to enter pleas to other charges, including 39 counts of manslaughter.

The details of that charge state that he “arranged or facilitated the travel of other persons into the UK with a view to their being exploited”.

The defendant was remanded into custody until a further hearing on 13 December.

Christopher Kennedy, 23, is due to appear at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on Monday accused of human trafficking offences.

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

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Kennedy, from Darkley, Co Armagh, is charged with 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.

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