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Man convicted in Essex trailer tragedy ordered to pay £6,000 compensation to 39 families

The victims, aged 15 to 44, suffocated as they were transported by ferry from Zeebrugge to Purfleet in Essex in October 2019

Christopher Kennedy (Essex Police/PA)

Neil Fethertonhaugh

A Northern Ireland man convicted for his part in the people-smuggling operation that led to the deaths of 39 Vietnamese people in the Essex trailer tragedy has been ordered to pay £6,000 compensation to their families.

Lorry driver Christopher Kennedy (25) of Corkley Road, Darkley, Co Armagh, was sentenced to seven years in prison at the Old Bailey for conspiracy to assist illegal immigration.

It followed the death of the victims, aged 15 to 44, who suffocated as they were transported by ferry from Zeebrugge to Purfleet in Essex in October 2019.

Judge Mark Lucraft QC has now ordered the confiscation of the available money in his bank account after the court heard he had benefited from his crime to the value of £67,050.65.

However he had just £6,094.18 in his Bank of Ireland account which was duly seized and ordered to pad to the paid as compensation to the families of the 39 victims.

Thirty-nine Vietnamese migrants were found dead in a lorry trailer in Essex.

Kennedy, from Co Armagh in Northern Ireland, sat in the dock and made no reaction during the brief hearing.

The four men who were jailed following the investigation, have in total been ordered to pay £30,000 of their criminal earnings after it was heard how they had made significant sums of money from the exploitation of the Vietnamese nationals.

Maurice Robinson (26) of Laurel Drive, Craigavon, Northern Ireland, was sentenced to 13 years and four months in prison for 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property.

Valentin Calota (38) of Cossingham Road, Birmingham, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for conspiracy to assist illegal immigration.

Alexandru-Ovidiu Hangu (29) of Hobart Road, Tilbury, was sentenced to three years in prison for conspiring to assist unlawful immigration.

Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Louise Metcalfe, said the men had thought they could make a comfortable living by putting the lives of vulnerable people at risk.

“What they did was immoral and dangerous, and I welcome the order made by the courts that prohibits them from retaining money generated through ill-gotten means.

“These orders once again demonstrate the lengths we will go to at Essex Police to deliver justice to the families of those who lost their lives in the most tragic of ways.

“Whilst I appreciate a court order will not bring their loved ones back, I hope our ongoing determination to bring those involved in this dangerous people smuggling operation to justice brings some comfort.

“My thoughts will always be with the families of the victims.”

Specialist Prosecutor Darren Fox, from the CPS, added: “Maurice Robinson, Christopher Kennedy, Valentin Calota and Alexandru-Ovidiu Hangu profited from smuggling people into the country, a practice which ended in 39 people dying in the most horrible circumstance.

“The CPS, working with police financial investigators, found the four profited alongside other co-conspirators from this incident. However, we will never know the true extent of the benefit from this tragedy.

“The Confiscation Order set by the Judge reflects the assets available to the three defendants. We will continue to enforce robustly, the confiscation order and ensure that the money will be paid as compensation to the bereaved families."

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