UK truck deaths: 23-year-old Irish man charged with human trafficking offences

Police are seen at the scene where bodies were discovered in a lorry container, in Grays, Essex, Britain October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

London: A month after bodies of 39 Vietnamese were found in the back of a truck at an industrial estate near London, the British police have charged a 23-year-old man from Northern Ireland with human trafficking charges.

The police said in a statement that Christopher Kennedy was arrested on Friday, November 22 and that he is due to appear at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court in England on Monday.

The Crown Prosecution Service has authorised charges of conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of people with a view to exploitation and conspiracy to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK immigration law, it said.

The truck driver, who is also from Northern Ireland, has been charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, and money laundering.

The bodies were discovered in the early hours of October 23, 2019, when emergency services were alerted to people in a truck container on an industrial site in Grays, about 20 miles (32 km) east of central London.

Police earlier said the truck and container took separate journeys before ending up at the industrial park. They said the container travelled by ferry from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge to Pureet, England, where it arrived on October 23 and was picked up by the truck driver and driven the few miles to Grays.

The truck cab, which is registered in Bulgaria to a company owned by an Irish woman, is believed to have travelled from Northern Ireland to Dublin, where it caught a ferry to Wales, then drove across Britain to pick up the container. The truck driver was put in custody shortly after.

All those in the container were pronounced dead at the scene.

For years, illegal immigrants have attempted to reach Britain stowed away in the back of trucks, often seeking to reach the United Kingdom from the European mainland. In Britain's biggest illegal immigrant tragedy in 2000, customs officials found the bodies of 58 Chinese people crammed into a tomato truck at the southern port of Dover. It too had begun its journey in Zeebrugge.

(With inputs from Reuters)