Alleged Ringleader Pleads Guilty in Manslaughter of 39 Migrants Found Dead in Essex Lorry Trailer

Alleged Ringleader Pleads Guilty in Manslaughter of 39 Migrants Found Dead in Essex Lorry Trailer

…By Henry George for TDPel Media.

An alleged ringleader of a people-smuggling gang has admitted to the manslaughter of 39 men, women, and children who were found dead in a lorry trailer in Essex.


The victims, Vietnamese nationals, had paid significant amounts of money for a “VIP” smuggling service, hoping for a better life in Britain.

Their tragic journey ended in a container transported from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Purfleet on October 23, 2019.

A Sophisticated and Profitable Conspiracy

The prosecution has characterized the smuggling operation as a sophisticated, long-running, and profitable conspiracy primarily targeting Vietnamese migrants crossing the English Channel.


On October 22, 2019, the victims were tightly packed inside the lorry container, enduring pitch-black and sweltering conditions.

Desperately running out of air, they tried to raise the alarm before reaching the shores of Britain.

Plea and Basis of Involvement

Marius Mihai Draghici, aged 50, acknowledged his guilt for the manslaughter charges and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Having been apprehended in Romania in August the previous year, Draghici entered his guilty pleas at the Old Bailey.

While there was no concrete evidence of financial reward, the prosecution expressed skepticism about Draghici’s lack of financial gain in the operation.


Sentencing and Previous Convictions

Following Draghici’s guilty pleas, the defendant was remanded into custody for sentencing at a later date.

Four other individuals had already been convicted in 2021 for their involvement in the manslaughter of the 39 migrants.

The lorry driver, Maurice Robinson, discovered the deceased victims, including two 15-year-olds, when he collected the trailer from the docks.

Robinson, along with his boss Ronan Hughes, had pleaded guilty to plotting people smuggling and 39 counts of manslaughter.

Sentences and Judge’s Remarks

At the sentencing hearing, Robinson received a prison term of 13 years and four months, Hughes was sentenced to 20 years, Gheorghe Nica to 27 years, and Eamonn Harrison to 18 years.


The judge, Mr. Justice Sweeney, affirmed that the smuggling conspiracy was indeed a sophisticated, long-running, and profitable operation.

The migrants’ attempts to escape and raise the alarm before their excruciatingly slow deaths were acknowledged.

Additional Convictions and Smuggling Operation Details

Other members of the smuggling gang were also sentenced during the hearing.

Lorry driver Christopher Kennedy received a seven-year prison sentence, Valentin Calota was sentenced to four-and-a-half years, and Alexandru-Ovidiu Hanga was handed a three-year custodial term.

The court learned that the operation had been ongoing for a considerable period, with the smugglers potentially earning over a million pounds in October 2019 alone.


There were at least seven identified smuggling trips, although it was believed that more had taken place.

Failed Attempts and Tragic Outcome

Migrants would board lorries at remote locations on the continent, transported to Britain, where they would be handed over to a fleet of smaller vehicles organized by Gheorghe Nica for further transportation to a safe house.

Only after payment was received would the migrants be released.

Despite previous reports from border officials and residents about migrants being dropped off, the smuggling operation continued until the devastating incident occurred.

Heartbreaking Loss and Testimony

During the sentencing hearing, the families of the victims in Vietnam and Britain spoke about their profound loss and hardship.


Phan Thi Thanh, who sold her family home and left her son behind, had her son heartbroken upon hearing about the incident through mass media.

Tran Hai Loc and Nguyen Thi Van, a couple found deceased together, left behind two young children.

The children’s grandfather, Tran Dinh Thanh, expressed the immense loss they faced.

Another bereaved father, Nguyen Huy Tung, learned of his son’s death on social media, causing great shock and pain for his family.

Remembering the Victims

The 39 victims, whose lives were tragically cut short, were: 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, 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, 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, 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.



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