Two members of an international people-smuggling gang were convicted of manslaughter on Monday over the deaths of 39 people who were found in the back of a container truck in southeastern England.
A jury at London’s Central Criminal Court found Romanian mechanic Gheorghe Nica, 43, and Northern Irish truck driver Eamonn Harrison, 24, guilty of the deaths of the Vietnamese nationals, who were found dead in the English town of Grays.
The victims, aged between 15 and 44, were found on Oct. 23, 2019, inside a refrigerated container that had arrived by ferry from Belgium. The migrants came from impoverished villages and are believed to have paid people-smugglers to take them on risky journeys to better lives abroad.
Prosecutors said Harrison drove the container to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge for transport to the U.K. Nica was described as the smuggling gang’s ringmaster.
Two other suspects, Christopher Kennedy and Valentin Calota, were also convicted of people-smuggling on Monday at the end of a 10-week trial.
Facing life sentences
Several others have pleaded guilty in the case, including truck driver Maurice Robinson, 26, who picked up the container in England and has admitted 39 counts of manslaughter.
All will be sentenced later. The maximum sentence for people-smuggling is 14 years in prison, while manslaughter carries a maximum life sentence.
Kelly Matthews of Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said that “nothing can bring back the lives lost on that day or the loss caused by the horrible, unlawful and dangerous actions of these defendants.
“But we hope these convictions bring some measure of solace to the families in the knowledge that justice has been done,” Matthews said.