London, Jan 22 (efe-epa).- The two leaders of a people smuggling ring and two lorry drivers were sentenced Friday by a British court to a total of 78 years in prison for the killings of 39 Vietnamese migrants who suffocated in a truck in England in October 2019.
Romanian Gheorghe Nica, who was found guilty of manslaughter and people smuggling at a trial last year and is considered the ringleader of the criminal gang, was sentenced to 27 years, and Northern Irishman Ronan Hughes, the owner of a logistics company involved in the plot, received a 20-year sentence.
Hughes had pleaded guilty to 39 charges of manslaughter at a trial in 2020.
Truck drivers Maurice Robinson and Eamonn Harrison were sentenced to 13 and 18 years respectively, London’s Old Bailey Criminal Court ruled.
The bodies of the migrants were found inside a sealed trailer on an industrial estate in Essex in eastern England.
The 28 men, eight women and three children who suffocated to death had spent at least twelve hours inside the refrigerated container, whose fridges were switched off.
They paid the smugglers around 10,000 pounds (10,900 euros) each to cross the British border.
In reading the sentence, Justice Nigel Sweeney described how the temperature inside the cabin reached over 40 degrees Celsius and carbon dioxide levels were rising as the hours passed.
“There were desperate attempts to contact the outside world by telephone and to break through the roof of the container and escape,” the magistrate described.
Those attempts “were unsuccessful” and before the truck arrived on British soil aboard a ferry from Belgium “they had all passed away in what must have been an excruciatingly slow death.”