LONDON – Two members of an international human trafficking gang were convicted on Monday of the involuntary manslaughter of 39 people whose bodies were found in the back of a container truck in the south-east of England last year.
A jury at the Central Criminal Court in London found Gheorghe Nice, a 43-year-old mechanic from Romania, and Eamonna Harrison, a 24-year-old truck driver from Northern Ireland, guilty of killing migrants, who were Vietnamese citizens.
The victims, aged 15 to 44, were found in the English town of Grays in October 2019, in a refrigerator that arrived by ferry from Belgium. Migrants came from poor villages and are believed to have paid smugglers to take them on risky journeys in search of a better life abroad.
Prosecutors said Mr Harrison drove the container to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge for transport to Britain. Mr. Nice has been described as the leader of a smuggling gang.
Two other suspects, Christopher Kennedy and Valentin Calota, were convicted of human trafficking Monday at the end of a 10-week trial.
Several others pleaded guilty in the case, including Maurice Robinson, 26, a truck driver who picked up a container in England. He confessed to 39 counts of murder.
Everyone will be convicted later. In Britain, the maximum penalty for smuggling people is 14 years in prison, while involuntary manslaughter carries a potential life sentence.
Kelly Matthews of the British Crown Prosecution Service said: “Nothing can bring back the lives lost that day or the loss caused by the horrific, illegal and dangerous actions of these defendants. But we hope that these condemnations will provide families with some measure of consolation knowing that justice has been served. “