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Lorry driver to face court over 39 bodies

Maurice ‘Mo’ Robinson

The Northern Irish lorry driver charged with manslaughter over the death of 39 migrants in Essex is due to appear in court today.

Maurice ‘Mo’ Robinson also faces an offence of conspiracy to traffic after the bodies were found in a refrigerated lorry on Wednesday 23 October.

The 25-year-old was questioned for more than 72 hours by cops after he picked up the trailer from Purfleet, Essex.

The bodies of eight women and 31 men were discovered in the back of the lorry on an industrial estate in Grays at around 1.40am.

Robinson will appear at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court 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 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 were 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 questioned 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.

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Essex Police said the suspect, who was held at Dublin Port when he arrived on a ferry from France, are liaising with the Garda 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.

It is believed the majority of the victims are Vietnamese.

The distraught family of Pham Thi Tra My, 26, believe she is among the dead after 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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