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Brother of haulier involved in deaths of 39 migrants sues top police officers for defamation

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The brother of a man involved in the deaths of 39 migrants found in a container in England last year has initiated defamation proceedings against senior police officers who investigated the matter.

The case is being taken in the High Court in Dublin by haulier Christopher Hughes (35) from Middletown, Co Armagh.

His brother and fellow haulier Ronan Hughes (41) and another Armagh man, lorry driver Maurice Robinson (25), pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the high-profile case earlier this year.

The bodies of 39 Vietnamese nationals were found in a lorry container in Essex last October. Two other people have also admitted to roles in a people-smuggling ring.

Four other men are currently on trial in London in connection with the tragedy.

The victims, 29 men, two boys and eight women, suffocated in the sealed trailer as they were transported from Zeebrugge in Belgium to ­Purfleet in Essex.

Last October, a senior police officer made a public plea for both Hughes brothers, who were believed to be in the Republic of Ireland at the time, to hand themselves in to the PSNI to assist the investigation.

However, while Ronan Hughes ultimately faced charges and was convicted after entering a guilty plea last April, Christopher Hughes has not faced prosecution.

In the lawsuit, initiated on Monday, he is suing the Chief Constable of Essex Police BJ Hamilton, Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith and Detective Chief Inspector Daniel Stoten for defamation.

The proceedings were issued by Monaghan solicitors firm Hickey, Henderson & Co just inside the one-year statute of limitations within which defamation proceedings must be brought.

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Christopher Hughes' solicitor Kevin Hickey said he was not at liberty to discuss the case when contacted by the Irish Independent.

A spokeswoman for Essex Police said she was unable to comment at this time as the police force has yet to receive any official paperwork or other details in relation to the lawsuit.

Last November Mr Hughes lost his heavy goods vehicles (HGV) licence following a ­public inquiry in Belfast.

At the inquiry, Mr Hughes's firm, C Hughes Logistics Ltd, had its licence to operate several vehicles revoked. He did not attend the hearing and was not represented at it.

Mr Hughes previously held a HGV licence for the Republic of Ireland. But this was withdrawn in January 2016 after it was found his drivers were driving for longer time periods than legally allowed.

Both licences allowed him to operate HGVs across the EU.

At the Old Bailey last August his brother Ronan, with an address at Tyholland, Co Monaghan, pleaded guilty to 39 counts of manslaughter and to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration between May 2018 and October of last year.


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