Vietnam jails four smugglers over Essex migrant lorry deaths

Vietnam jails four smugglers over Essex migrant lorry deaths

Vietnam jails four people smugglers over the deaths of 39 of migrants who were found suffocated to death in the back of a lorry in Essex

  • Vietnam has jailed four people smugglers over the deaths of 39 migrants who were found suffocated to death in the back of a lorry in Essex 
  • Three others were also given suspended sentences for their part in the operation
  • British haulier and truck driver have pleaded guilty to manslaughter in UK court 
  • Dead included 29 men, eight women and two teenage boys, all from Vietnam 

Vietnam has jailed four people for helping to smuggle 39 of the country’s citizens to the UK – where they suffocated to death in the back of a lorry.

Nguyen Quoc Thanh, 26, Nguyen Thi Thuy Hoa, 36, Tran Dinh Truong, 35, and Nguyen Xuan Trieu, 24, were sentenced to a total of 51 years in prison at a court in the city of Ha Tinh, in central Vietnam, on Monday.

Three others – 53-year-old Vo Van Ky, 68-year-old Vo Van Ho, and 53-year-old Le Van Hue – were given suspended sentences totalling three and a half years.

All seven defendants were charged with ‘illegally sending people abroad’. 

It comes after 39 migrants – 29 men, eight women and two teenage boys, all from Vietnam – were found dead in the back of a refrigerated lorry in Grays, Essex, in October last year.

Vietnam has sentenced four people – Nguyen Quoc Thanh (standing far left), Nguyen Xuan Trieu (seated second left) Nguyen Thi Thuy Hoa (standing second right) and Tran Dinh Truong (standing far right) to a total of 51 years in jail for people smuggling

The sentences come after 39 Vietnamese migrants were found suffocated to death in the back of a refrigerated lorry in Essex, in the UK, in October last year 

Three other Vietnamese – including Vo Van Ho, 68 (pictured) – were also sentenced over the smuggling operation, but were given suspended sentences

All seven defendants were sentenced for ‘illegally sending people abroad’ as part of an international smuggling ring that has also seen arrests in the UK, Belgium and France

The migrants had been taken to the UK via Belgium, where they were lodaed inside a container that as driven to the port of Zeebrugge.

Once at the port, the container was loaded on a ferry bound for Purfleet, in Essex. 

Police say the plan was then to take the container eight miles to Collingwood Farm, where the migrants would be unloaded and driven away in a ‘fleet’ of cars.

But a short time later emergency services were called to an industrial park in nearby Grays after it was discovered that the migrants inside the container had died.

Ronan Hughes, 40, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter of Vietnamese migrants who were found dead in a lorry container in Essex

The driver of the lorry – 25-year-old Maurice Robinson, from Northern Ireland – was arrested and charged with murder, but has since pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Haulier Ronan Hughes, 40, pleaded guilty to the same charges last month. Both are awaiting sentencing

Eamonn Harrison, 23, who is accused of driving the container through Belgium, has also appeared in court but pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration. He is due to go on trial in October.  

Speaking after the verdict in Vietnam, Nguyen Dinh Gia – who lost his 20-year-old son Luong in the tragedy – said he believed the defendants should not have been given jail terms.

‘The people involved were just trying to help and then the accident happened,’ he said, adding that he had not known the trial was taking place.

‘He was an adult who made his own decision and joined the trip voluntarily, with the aim to improve his life, earning money to alleviate our poverty.’


Eamon Harrison, 23, from County Down, is the man believed to have delivered the ill-fated container to Zeebrugge, Belgium, and was charged with 39 counts of manslaughter today. Mo Robinson, 25, who picked it up, has already appeared in court accused of the same thing

The victims including 10 teenagers have been identified as coming from various provinces of Vietnam with the youngest being two boys aged 15. Pictured: The industrial park in Grays, Essex where the 39 people were found

It had been alleged that Hughes played a leading role in the operation, with his trailers (pictured, the truck which carried the migrants) and drivers used to transport migrants

Gia said his son had wanted to travel to Britain from France, where he had been living illegally since 2018.

The journey to Britain, where he aimed to look for work in a nail salon, would have cost him around 11,000 pounds ($14,000).

‘It has been almost a year but whenever I think about this, it’s still painful,’ Gia said.

Luong and the majority of the other migrants came from a handful of poor central provinces, hotspots for illegal migration to Europe.

The lorry carrying the victims – including two 15-year-old boys – arrived on a ferry from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge in the early hours of October 23.

They died from lack of oxygen and overheating, according to post-mortem examinations.

A number of people have been arrested and charged in Britain, France and Belgium in connection with the case. 

The victims were were from five provinces in the central, coastal area of Vietnam and two provinces near Hanoi

Who were the 39 people who died in the Esssex lorry container? 

These are the names of the victims of the Essex truck tragedy are: 


Pham Tra My, 26, has been confirmed as among the 39 people who died in a lorry in Essex


Fifteen-year-old Nguyen Huy Hung (left) was the youngest of the group, 10 of whom were teenagers. Nguyen Dinh Lurong, 20, (right) was also named among those who died



Anna Bui Thi Nhung, 19, (left) and cousins Nguyen van Hung, 33, (centre) and Hoang Van Tiep, 18, (right) are also among the dead



Carpenter Le Van Ha, 30, father-of-two Vo Ngoc Nam, 28, and Nguyen Dinh Tu, 26, have also been named among the dead

 Pham Thi Tra My, a 26-year-old woman from Ha Tinh

Nguyen Dinh Lurong, a 20-year-old man from Ha Tinh

Nguyen Huy Phong, a 35-year-old man from Ha Tinh

Vo Nhan Du, a 19-year-old man from Ha Tinh

Tran Manh Hung, a 37-year-old man from Ha Tinh

Tran Khanh Tho, a 18-year-old man from Ha Tinh

Vo Van Linh, a 25-year-old man from Ha Tinh

Nguyen Van Nhan, a 33-year-old man from Ha Tinh

Bui Phan Thang, a 37-year-old man from Ha Tinh

Nguyen Huy Hung, a 15-year-old boy from Ha Tinh

Tran Thi Tho, a 21-year-old woman from Nghe An

Bui Thi Nhung, a 19-year-old woman from Nghe An

Vo Ngoc Nam, a 28-year-old man from Nghe An

Nguyen Dinh Tu, a 26-year-old man from Nghe An

Le Van Ha, a 30-year-old man from Nghe An

Tran Thi Ngoc, a 19-year-old woman from Nghe An

Nguyen Van Hung, a 33-year-old man from Nghe An

Hoang Van Tiep, a 18-year-old man from Nghe An

Cao Tien Dung, a 37-year-old man from Nghe An

Cao Huy Thanh, a 33-year-old man from Nghe An

Tran Thi Mai Nhung, a 18-year-old woman from Nghe An

Nguyen Minh Quang, a 20-year-old man from Nghe An

Le Trong Thanh, a 44-year-old man from Dien Chau

Pham Thi Ngoc Oanh, a 28-year-old woman from Nghe An

Hoang Van Hoi, a 24-year-old man from Nghe An

Nguyen Tho Tuan, a 25-year-old man from Nghe An

Dang Huu Tuyen, a 22-year-old man from Nghe An

Nguyen Trong Thai, a 26-year-old man from Nghe An

Nguyen Van Hiep, a 24-year-old man from Nghe An

Nguyen Thi Van, a 35-year-old woman from Nghe An

Tran Hai Loc, a 35-year-old man from Nghe An

Duong Minh Tuan, a 27-year-old man from Quang Binh

Nguyen Ngoc Ha, a 32-year-old man from Quang Binh

Nguyen Tien Dung, a 33-year-old man from Quang, Binh

Phan Thi Thanh, a 41-year-old woman from Hai Phong

Nguyen Ba Vu Hung, a 34-year-old man from Thua Tien Hue

Dinh Dinh Thai Quyen, a 18-year-old man from Hai Phong

Tran Ngoc Hieu, a 17-year-old boy from Hai Duong

Dinh Dinh Binh, a 15-year-old boy from Hai Phong

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