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Gang jailed for smuggling drugs in fake ambulances

One of the fake ambulances that was used in the drug smuggling plot. Credit: National Crime Agency

A gang of drug smugglers, including two from Suffolk and Northamptonshire, have been jailed for shipping £1.6 billion of Class A drugs using fake ambulances.

Some of the shipments came through the Essex port of Harwich.

The drugs were being brought to the UK in a fleet of Dutch ambulances, specifically adapted with hides to conceal drugs between May 2014 and June 2015.

Darren Owen, 48, from Rushden, Northants was jailed for 15 years and Richard Clarke, 36, from Acton, Suffolk was jailed for 11 years.

Suspected head of people-smuggling ring arrested after migrants found in Essex

Iraqi born Rekawt Kayani, 34, was apprehended on a European Arrest Warrant at his home in Derby. Credit: National Crime Agency

The suspected head of an international people-smuggling ring which is believed to have brought migrants into Britain illegally through the port of Harwich has been arrested.

Iraqi born Rekawt Kayani, 34, was apprehended on a European Arrest Warrant at his home in Derby.

The National Crime Agency said he was one of three men detained as part of a joint investigation with French authorities.

It is alleged Kayani organised numerous smuggling runs, including one in June last year when 68 migrants were found inside four lorries at the Harwich International Port.

The 68 migrants were found at Harwich International Port last July. Credit: Press Association

Thirty-five of the migrants were from Afghanistan, 22 from China, 10 fromVietnam and one was from Russia.

Kayani, who now faces extradition to France, appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London on Thursday. He has been remanded in custody until a hearing on July 5.

Kayani was targeted by the UK Organised Immigration Crime Taskforce as we believe he is responsible for smuggling hundreds of migrants into the UK.

We will continue to work with agencies in the UK and overseas to target anyone that preys on vulnerable people in order to line their own pockets."

– Mick Pope, NCA

Dutchman guilty of smuggling £1.6 billion drugs into UK

One of the fake ambulances that was used in the plot. Credit: National Crime Agency

A Dutchman has been found guilty of conspiring to smuggle drugs into the UK using a fake ambulance.

The £1.6 billion plot saw huge amounts of contraband brought across the Channel. The gang sometimes used the Port of Harwich in Essex to get the drugs into the country.

Leonardus Bijlsma Credit: National Crime Agency

Leonardus Bijlsma was convicted at Birmingham Crown Court. Prosecutors said he was part of a "lucrative criminal conspiracy" concealed from border officials with the aid of bogus paramedic uniforms and fake patients on crutches.

A haul of drugs seized from the fleet of ambulances. Credit: National Crime Agency

Two other men from Holland; Olof Schoon and Richard Engelsbel had already admitted the conspiracy charge and will be sentenced alongside Bijlsma next week.

A fourth man, 28-year-old Dennis Vogelaar, of Vijfhuizen, Amsterdam, was acquitted by the jury.

Open day at Harwich maternity unit

Protests against closure of Harwich maternity unit Credit: ITV Anglia

An open day is being held at Harwich's maternity unit today to encourage more women to give birth there. People who go along will be able to chat with midwives and see the facilities.

The midwife led unit says it wants to dispel the myths that women can't deliver their baby at night or during the weekends.

The unit was saved from closure last year after protests by those who use the services.


Two unaccompanied children among migrants discovered at Harwich

Two unaccompanied children were among 68 migrants discovered at Harwich port. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The House of Commons has been told that two unaccompanied children were among 68 migrants discovered in containers at Harwich docks.

The Home Office minister James Brokenshire said they were now in the care of Essex Social Services.

Parliament was also told that 15 of the migrants had already been deported.

Click below to watch a report by ITV News Anglia Political Correspondent Emma Hutchinson

Lorry drivers arrested after Harwich discovery bailed

The suspected illegal immigrants were discovered on Thursday. Credit: PA

Four Polish lorry drivers arrested after 68 suspected illegal immigrants were found locked in their vehicles have been released on bail.

They were taken in to custody after the 35 Afghan nationals, 22 Chinese nationals, 10 Vietnamese and one Russian passenger were discovered at Harwich International Port in Essex at about 10pm on Thursday.

But after almost two days of being questioned by authorities, the drivers who were arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration were bailed until July 2.

The incident was described as one of the "biggest single finds of clandestines coming into the UK" by Bernard Jenkin, MP for Harwich and North Essex.

Fifteen of those discovered hiding amid Polish washing machines were children.

In total seven people - including two pregnant women - were taken to hospital to be checked before being released into the care of Border Force officials.

A Home Office spokesman confirmed that 53 adults and 15 children were found during a "proactive search".

The 68 individuals arrived at the port at 7.45pm on lorries that had boarded the Stena Hollandica ferry which sailed from the Hook of Holland at 2.25pm.

Staff and volunteers from the British Red Cross were providing practical and emotional support including blankets, food and hygiene packs to those affected.

Leigh Daynes, executive director of Doctors of the World UK which provides medical aid to undocumented migrants throughout Europe, said: "Over an dover we see migrants who have risked life and limb to cross Europe.

"With few safe routes to enter the continent, many more will continue to take dehumanising and perilous journeys like this."

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Charity supports stowaways found at Essex port

Officers from the British Red Cross are supporting the 68 people found inside lorries at Harwich International Port, as Border Force officials continue their investigations.

Border Force officials continue to question the suspected illegal immigrants found at Harwich International Port Credit: PA

The charity's volunteers have given the 53 adults and 15 children provisions including blankets, food and hygiene packs, as well as providing emotional support.

The suspected illegal immigrants were found locked inside four separate lorries during routine checks yesterday evening.

More: Children and pregnant women among 68 found at port

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'Supership' carried suspected illegal immigrants

Ferry firm Stena Line has confirmed that 68 suspected illegal immigrants discovered at Harwich International Port were found inside lorries travelling on one of its ships.

Harwich Port in Essex this morning Credit: Pool

A Stena Line spokeswoman described the Stena Hollandica as a "supership" that carries both passengers and freight.

Stena Line can confirm that four different lorries carrying 68 clandestines were stopped by Border Force at Harwich International Port last night as they disembarked from the Stena Hollandica.

The ship had sailed from the Hook of Holland to Harwich, leaving the Hook of Holland at 1415 and arriving in Harwich at 1945 on Thursday 4 June.

– Stena Line spokeswoman

Following earlier reports from East of England Ambulance Service that the 68 were found inside one container, the Home Office confirmed that they were discovered "during a proactive search of four lorries".

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