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Lorry Driver Pleads Guilty To Manslaughter Over 39 Dead Bodies Found In Refrigerated Truck

A Northern Irish trucker driver has pleaded guilty to 39 counts of manslaughter after a group of Vietnamese people were found dead in a freezing shipping container in the UK last year.

Maurice Robinson was arrested in Essex, in southeast England, in October.

The 39 victims were aged from 15 to 44 and included 31 men and boys, and eight women.

They were found in the back of a truck driven by Robinson to an industrial estate in Grays, about 32 km east of London.

Many of the victims were believed to be from Nghe An and Ha Tinh provinces in north-central Vietnam, an area where there are poor job prospects and frequent environmental disasters, driving many to migrate.

People gather to watch as a lorry, in which 39 bodies were discovered in the trailer, is driven from the site to a secure location. Image: Getty

Robinson, 25, had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing in November to charges of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring cash which he knew or suspected came from criminal conduct.

During Wednesday's hearing in London, a second man, Gheorghe Nica, 43, -- who is a British-Romanian dual national also charged with 39 counts of manslaughter -- pleaded not guilty.

A number of people in Vietnam and the UK have been arrested and charged over the deadly incident.

The cause of death was a combination of hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation, and hyperthermia, or overheating, in an enclosed space, autopsies revealed.

Maurice Robinson was arrested in Essex, in southeast England, in October. Image: Facebook

Last year, Father Anthony Dang Huu Nam, a Catholic priest in the remote town of Yen Thanh in northern central Vietnam's Nghe An province, said "the whole district is covered in sorrow", as prayers for the dead rang out over loudspeakers throughout the misty, rain-soaked town on Saturday.

"This is a catastrophe for our community."

Police found more than 500 items within the truck including bags, clothing and mobile phones.

The trial starts in October.

With Reuters.

Featured image: Facebook