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Maurice Robinson pleads guilty to manslaughter of 39 people in Essex lorry tragedy

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A vigil for the 39 victims found dead inside the back of a truck in Essex
A vigil for the 39 victims found dead inside the back of a truck in Essex   -   Copyright  AP
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A truck triver has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 39 people who were found dead in a lorry in Essex in October last year.

Maurice Robinson, 25, from Northern Ireland, entered the plea at Central London Criminal Court on Wednesday.

Robinson appeared in court via video link alongside four co-defendants.

The 39 victims, all Vietnamese nationals, were found by police in the back of a refrigerated lorry container in an industrial park in Essex in October 2019.

The 31 men and eight women are believed to have paid people traffickers to smuggle them into England. They were aged between 15 and 44. Police say they died of a combination of a lack of oxygen and overheating in an enclosed space.

Another defendant, Gheorghe Nica, 43, denied 39 counts of manslaughter. Alexandru-Ovidiu Hanga, 27, denied a charge of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration. Christopher Kennedy, 23, previously denied conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration. Valentin Calota, 37, was not asked to enter a plea to the charge of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration.

This is a breaking news story, updates to follow