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Dead migrants in truck were half-naked and 'closely packed'


Maurice Robinson

Maurice Robinson

Maurice Robinson

A police officer has described how he found the half-naked bodies of 39 migrants in the back of a lorry trailer.

PC Jack Emerson was among the first at the scene in Essex after lorry driver Maurice Robinson dialled 999 early on October 23 last year.

Robinson (26), from Co Armagh, had picked up the trailer from Purfleet docks after it was transported from Zeebrugge in Belgium, the Old Bailey in London has heard.

He opened the doors to the trailer minutes after leaving Purfleet, but drove around and spoke to haulage boss Ronan Hughes and alleged organiser Gheorghe Nica by phone before alerting emergency services, jurors were told.

When police arrived on the scene at 1.50am, Robinson was "just standing there" and appeared calm, according to PC Emerson.

The court was shown CCTV footage of marked police cars arriving in Eastern Avenue, Thurrock, where Robinson's lorry was parked with the rear trailer door open.

"I could see one of the trailer doors was already open and I could see numerous half- naked bodies in the back of the trailer, lying on the trailer floor motionless," PC Emerson said, describing the horrific scene.

"I approached the door of the trailer to further inspect the bodies and it became apparent as I got closer that the entire trailer was full of bodies, and the individuals appeared to be half-naked.

"Most of them were wearing clothes on their lower half but they all appeared to not be wearing any clothing on their upper half.

"All of the bodies appeared intact, and it was my opinion that they had not been there for a very long period of time as there was not any visible sign of decomposition.

"There was, however, a strange smell coming from the trailer that smelt like chemicals.

"There was also smoke condensation coming from the rear of the trailer, which suggested to me that the trailer was refrigerated."

The officer said in a statement read to the court that the driver was arrested on suspicion of murder after a colleague called to "get him in cuffs".

Another officer radioed control, saying there was "potentially 40 people deceased".

PC Emerson said he got inside the trailer to search for any signs of life, checking pulses and for breathing, but that he could not reach some of the bodies.

He said the bodies were "closely packed" together, mainly lying on their backs.

"I started scanning the trailer to look for signs of life, but there was not. All bodies appeared completely motionless.


"Due to how packed together the bodies were in the trailer, it was not possible to check every body, so I made an attempt to check the bodies I could reach."

He said some appeared to be "frothing from the mouth" and some were warm.

Jurors have heard that Robinson (26) and Hughes (41) have admitted the manslaughter of the migrants.

Lorry driver Eamonn Harr-ison (23), of Co Down, who dropped the trailer off at Zeebrugge, has denied 39 counts of manslaughter along with Nica (43) of Basildon.

Harrison, another lorry driver Christopher Kennedy (24), also of Co Armagh, and Valentin Calota (37), of Birmingham, have denied being part of a wider people-smuggling conspiracy, which Nica has admitted.