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U.K. truck driver pleads guilty in deaths of Vietnamese migrants found in container

Victims died of a combination of a lack of oxygen and overheating in an enclosed space, police said.
Image: Police officers drive away a lorry in which 39 dead bodies were discovered sparking a murder investigation at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex
Police officers drive away a lorry in which 39 dead bodies were discovered sparking a murder investigation at Waterglade Industrial Park in Essex, Britain on Oct. 23, 2019.Hannah McKay / Reuters file

A truck driver accused in the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants whose bodies were found inside a refrigerated container that had been hauled to England pleaded guilty to manslaughter Wednesday.

Maurice Robinson, 25, of Craigavon in Northern Ireland, entered the plea at Central London Criminal Court. Robinson appeared in court via video link alongside four co-defendants.

The bodies of the 39 people were found in the container at the back of the truck on Oct. 23. Police investigating the case found the 31 male and eight female victims were all from Vietnam and ranged in age from 15 to 44, including 10 teenagers.

Maurice Robinson pleaded guilty to manslaughter. via Facebook

Police said they died of a combination of a lack of oxygen and overheating in an enclosed space. The victims came from impoverished villages in Vietnam and are believed to have paid people smugglers to take them on risky journey to better lives abroad.

The truck discovered in the town of Grays, east of London, had arrived in England on a ferry from Zeebrugge in Belgium.

Robinson, appeared at court via video link, had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property. He denied a charge of transferring criminal property.

Another eight people have been charged in connection with the case.

Prosecutor William Emlyn Jones QC said a human trafficking conspiracy charge was being dropped in relation to Robinson.

He asked for three weeks to decide whether to proceed with a trial against Robinson on the outstanding charge he faced.