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Lorry driver ‘part of smuggling ring’

A LORRY driver accused of the manslaughter of 39 illegal immigrants was part of a ‘global ring’ smuggling large numbers of people into the UK, a court heard yesterday.

Maurice Robinson, 25, was arrested after the bodies of eight women and 31 men were found in a refrigerated trailer attached to his cab in Grays, Essex, last Wednesday.

Robinson (pictured in a court sketch), appeared before Chelmsford magistrates by video link yesterday, charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration. Prosecutor Ogheneruona Iguyovwe said the conspiracy charges involved ‘the movement of a large number of illegal immigrants into the UK’.

The hearing coincided with Boris Johnson visiting Thurrock in Essex to sign a book of condolence. Police first believed the victims were all Chinese but Vietnamese citizens are now feared to be among the dead. Investigators are relying on features such as fingerprints, scars and tattoos to identify them.

Robinson, of Craigavon in Co. Armagh, is also charged with one count of acquiring criminal property and one of concealing criminal property. He was not asked for a plea and was remanded to appear at the Old Bailey on November 25. Three others remain on bail.