A LORRY driver is due to appear in court today charged with manslaughter over the death of 39 migrants in Essex.
Dad-to-be Maurice ‘Mo’ Robinson also faces an offence of conspiracy to traffic after the bodies were found in a refrigerated lorry on Wednesday.
The 25-year-old, from Northern Ireland, was quizzed for more than 72 hours by cops after he picked up the trailer from Purfleet, Essex.
Just 20 minutes later, the grisly discovery of the eight women and 31 men in the back of the death-trap lorry was made on an industrial estate in Grays at around 1.40am.
Robinson is due to appear at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court today charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic humans, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering.
He is said to have opened the container to get some paperwork and passed out when he discovered the victims dead after they reportedly froze to death.
Three other people were also arrested in connection with the tragedy, including haulage boss Thomas Maher and wife Joanna Maher, both 38, from Warrington, Cheshire.
Joanna allegedly owned the Scania truck, which was registered in the Bulgarian port of Varna in 2018, but claims she sold it last year.
The pair are being held on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic people and manslaughter but were released on bail until November 11.
A 48-year-old man from Northern Ireland was also quizzed on the same charges after being detained at Stansted Airport on Friday. He was released on bail until November 13.
A 23-year-old man suspected of driving the container packed with migrants to Zeebrugge before the doomed journey has appeared in court in Ireland on unrelated charges.
Essex Police said the suspect, who was held at Dublin Port when he arrived on a ferry from France, are liasing with cops in Ireland.
The man is a “person of interest” but was arrested on an unrelated charge following a road accident in Germany.
He was remanded in custody by a court in Dublin on Saturday to next appear on Wednesday.
Essex Police originally said they believed the victims were Chinese nationals – but it’s now thought the majority are Vietnamese.
The distraught family of Pham Thi Tra My, 26, are now frantically scrambling for information after paying £30,000 to smuggle her to the UK.
She sent her family chilling messages saying she was “dying” and couldn’t breathe as the doomed trailer was on its way to Essex from Belgium.
Other Vietnamese nationals – including Nguyen Dinh Luong and Bui Thi Nhung – are feared to be among the dead after their relatives reported them missing.
Detective Chief Inspector Martin Pasmore said the nationality of the victims is not yet known, but the focus is now on the Vietnamese community – although “there may be other nationalities involved”.
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Bodies are being identified by their fingerprints at Broomfield Hospital, where post-mortem examinations are also taking place.
The horror has chilling echoes of a similar case in 2000, when 58 Chinese stowaways died in a lorry travelling by ferry from Belgium to Britain.
In both tragedies, the victims had come from Zeebrugge before arriving in Purfleet port in Essex.