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U.K. Truck Driver Admits Illegal Immigration Plot After 39 Migrant Deaths

Maurice Robinson, 25, seen in a courtroom sketch last month. The truck driver pleaded guilty Monday to two charges related to the deaths of 39 migrants — but he still faces dozens more charges.

Just more than a month since dozens of dead migrants were discovered in a truck in southeast England, the driver has admitted to conspiring to assist unlawful immigration and acquire criminal property. Maurice Robinson pleaded guilty to the two charges at a court hearing Monday in London.

Robinson, a 25-year-old from Northern Ireland better known as Mo, also faces one manslaughter charge for each of the 39 Vietnamese nationals found dead in his truck's trailer last month. He faces 43 charges in all — including the two he pleaded guilty to Monday and charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit human trafficking.

The court on Monday did not ask for Robinson's plea regarding these other charges.

Still, the guilty plea marks a step forward in a case that has unsettled the U.K. in the weeks since the refrigerated container was found abandoned in the port town of Grays, in the county of Essex. Inside were the bodies of 31 male and eight female migrants, ranging in age from teens to mid-40s.

Nguyen Dinh Luong, 20, seen in a portrait placed on a prayer altar at his house in Vietnam, was among the 39 migrants who died in the truck's trailer last month.
Nhac Nguyen / AFP via Getty Images
Nguyen Dinh Luong, 20, seen in a portrait placed on a prayer altar at his house in Vietnam, was among the 39 migrants who died in the truck's trailer last month.

Essex police arrested Robinson shortly after the trailer and its grisly contents were reported at Waterglade Industrial Park in the early hours of Oct. 23.

Since then, authorities have arrested several other suspects and charged one — Christopher Kennedy, also of Northern Ireland — in what police are investigating as a wider human trafficking ring.

Robinson will remain in custody until his next hearing, scheduled for Dec. 13.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.