LONDON — The driver of the tractor-trailer in which the bodies of 39 Vietnamese people were found dead in southeastern England last month pleaded guilty on Monday in a London court to charges related to the case.
The driver, Maurice Robinson — a 25-year-old from Northern Ireland who is one of three people to have been charged in the case — pleaded guilty to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property, the Essex Police said in a statement.
He also faces one count of manslaughter for each of the 39 victims, and one count each of transferring criminal property and conspiracy to traffic people.
The case sent shock waves internationally when the bodies were discovered on Oct. 23 in a refrigerated truck in an industrial park in Grays, an Essex town 25 miles east of London. This month, the police identified all of the 39 dead as Vietnamese citizens, the youngest of whom was 15.
Mr. Robinson’s case will resume in court on Dec. 13.
Christopher Kennedy, a 23-year-old from Northern Ireland, is also scheduled to appear in court that day in relation to this case. Mr. Kennedy was charged this weekend with counts related to human trafficking, the Essex Police said.
Eamonn Harrison, 22, another truck driver from Northern Ireland, has also been charged. He faces counts of manslaughter, human trafficking and immigration offenses. Mr. Harrison, who is being held in Ireland, appeared in court there last week over a request that he be extradited to Britain.
The police are also seeking two brothers from Northern Ireland, Ronan and Christopher Hughes, in the case. The brothers have links to the shipping and cargo hauling industries in Northern Ireland and Ireland, the police said this month.
The victims found in the refrigerated container, which had been transported from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge, are believed to have set out for Europe from Vietnam in search for better lives. A GoFundMe page to raise money toward the cost of repatriating their bodies had raised more than $25,000 by Monday.
Despite the potentially fatal risks of such smuggling, migrants from various parts of the world continue to try to reach Europe in this way.