horror deaths | 

Haulage boss Ronan Hughes ordered to pay €200k to families of 39 lorry container victims

The judge ordered that the confiscated sum of £182,078 be paid in compensation to the bereaved families of the victims

BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Handout CCTV image issued by Essex Police dated 23/10/19 of snapchat message from Ronan Hughes to Maurice Robinson. Gheorghe Nica, 43, and Eamonn Harrison, 24, have been found guilty at the Old Bailey of the manslaughter of 39 Vietnamese men women and children who suffocated as they were smuggled into Britain in a lorry trailer. The jury, which deliberated for nearly 23 hours, also convicted them of their part in a wider people-smuggling operation with Christopher Kennedy, 24, and Valentin Calota, 38.© PA

BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Undated family handout file photos issued by Essex Police of (left to right top row) Dinh Dinh Binh, Nguyen Minh Quang, Nguyen Huy Phong, Le Van Ha, Nguyen Van Hiep, Bui Phan Thang, Nguyen Van Hung, Nguyen Huy Hung, Nguyen Tien Dung, Pham Thi Tra My, (left to right second row) Tran Khanh Tho, Nguyen Van Nhan, Vo Ngoc Nam, Vo Van Linh, Nguyen Ba Vu Hung, Vo Nhan Du, Tran Hai Loc, Tran Manh Hung, Nguyen Thi Van, Bui Thi Nhung, (third row left to right) Hoang Van Tiep, Tran Thi Ngoc, Phan Thi Thanh,Tran Thi Tho, Duong Minh Tuan, Pham Thi Ngoc Oanh, Tran Thi Mai Nhung, Le Trong Thanh, Nguyen Ngoc Ha, Hoang Van Hoi, (bottom row left to right) Tran Ngoc Hieu, Cao Tien Dung, Dinh Dinh Thai Quyen, Dang Huu Tuyen, Nguyen Dinh Luong , Cao Huy Thanh, Nguyen Trong Thai, Nguyen Tho Tuan and Nguyen Dinh Tu, the 39 Vietnamese migrants, aged between 15 and 44, that were found dead in the back of a trailer in Essex on October 23 last year. A member of a people-smuggling gang linked to the deaths of 39 Vietnamese men, women and children has been ordered to pay the bereaved families £3,000. Issue date: Friday July 23, 2021.© PA

Emily PenninkPA Media

A haulage boss jailed over the deaths of 39 men, women and children as they were smuggled into the UK has been ordered to pay their families more than £180,000.

Ronan Hughes (43) from Armagh is serving a 20-year sentence for the manslaughter of the Vietnamese nationals, who were aged between 15 and 44.

On Friday at the Old Bailey in London, Judge Mark Lucraft KC confiscated Hughes’s ill-gotten gains from his leading role in the long-running people-smuggling operation.

Available assets included cash, bank accounts, the value of lorries, including the one in which the victims died, and Hughes’ share of a property in Ireland.

The judge ordered that the confiscated sum of £182,078 be paid in compensation to the bereaved families of the victims.

The judge said the penalty for defaulting on the order was two years in prison.

The 39 victims of the disaster© PA

Hughes’s earlier Old Bailey trial had heard how 39 bodies were found in a lorry trailer after it was transported by ferry from Zeebrugge to Purfleet in Essex, early on October 23, 2019.

The grim discovery ended what had been a “sophisticated, long-running and profitable conspiracy” to smuggle mainly Vietnamese migrants into the UK in the back of lorries.

Hughes had deployed lorry drivers in the plot, including Maurice Robinson (28), who discovered his human cargo had already suffocated in transit after picking up the trailer they were in at Purfleet in Essex.

Shortly before Robinson opened the back of the container, Hughes had texted him to “give them air quickly” but “don’t let them out”.

As part of the investigation, police identified at least six smuggling trips, with migrants paying up to £13,000 for a “VIP” service.

A text from Hughes to Mo Robinson© PA

In October 2019 alone, the smugglers stood to make more than £1 million.

Migrants would board lorries at a remote location on the continent to be transported to Britain, where they would be picked up by a fleet of smaller vehicles for transfer to safe houses until payment was received.

Some of the trips were thwarted by border officials, and residents in Orsett, Essex, had repeatedly reported migrants being dropped off, but the smuggling operation was not stopped until after the fatal journey.

The families of the victims in Vietnam and Britain have previously described their loss and hardship.

Previously, three other men were jailed for between 27 years and 13 years and four months for manslaughter and plotting to people-smuggle.

Other members of the gang have been jailed for their role in the operation.

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