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Essex lorry deaths: People smuggler must pay more than £65,000 to victims’ families | UK News

A people smuggler responsible for killing 39 people who were found dead in the back of a lorry has been ordered to pay more than £65,000 in compensation to the victims’ families.

The bodies of the Vietnamese nationals, who were aged between 15 and 44, were discovered on 22 October 2019 after they were transported in an airtight container from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Purfleet in Essex.

Gang ringleader Gheorghe Nica, a 46-year-old Romanian, was found guilty of the manslaughter of the victims and jailed for 27 years in 2021.

Four other gang members were also convicted of manslaughter over the lorry deaths.

The 39 victims. Pic: Essex Police

Now, in a confiscation order, Nica has been ordered to pay £65,157.65 to the families.

It brings the total paid to the relatives by the gang to £283,802.58, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.

A hearing last month was told that Nica, from Basildon in Essex, made at least £90,000 from people smuggling, and identified how the group made seven trips between May 2018 and 23 October 2019.

Migrants would pay up to £13,000 for what they thought was a “VIP service”, the Old Bailey heard.

They would board lorries at a remote location on the continent to be transported to Britain.

The migrants would then be picked up by a fleet of smaller vehicles organised by Nica for transfer to a safe house until payment was received.

Judge Mark Lucraft KC ruled on Friday that the total amount by which Nica benefited was £186,587.65.

After assessing the defendant’s assets, the judge ordered him to pay £65,175.65 within three months. Failure to pay would result in a further year in prison.

Previously, Ronan Hughes, from Armagh, Northern Ireland, was ordered to pay the victims’ families more than £180,000 after being jailed for 20 years.

The scene where bodies were discovered in a lorry container, in Grays, Essex
Police at the scene where the victims were found dead in the back of a lorry

Lorry driver Maurice Robinson, of Craigavon, who found the bodies in the back of his trailer and was jailed for 13 years and four months, paid more than £21,000.

Eamonn Harrison, of County Down, who had collected the victims on the continent, was sentenced to 18 years in jail for manslaughter.

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In July, Marius Mihai Draghici became the fifth person to be convicted of manslaughter.

The 50-year-old Romanian was described as a “right-hand man” in the people-smuggling gang, fled the UK after the bodies were discovered, and was detained by police in Romania last August.

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