Truck driver denies human trafficking charges after refrigerated trailer deaths

The container lorry in which 39 people were found dead at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

A lorry driver has denied being involved in an alleged human trafficking plot linked to the deaths of 39 people in a refrigerated container.

Christopher Kennedy, 23, from Darkley, Co Armagh, Northern Ireland, appeared at the Old Bailey before Mr Justice Edis on Friday.

He pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit human trafficking offences between May 1 2018 and October 24 2019 by arranging or facilitating the travel of other people with a view to exploitation.

He also denied conspiring to assist unlawful immigration over the same period.

Emergency services had been called to an industrial estate in Grays, Essex, shortly after a lorry arrived on a ferry from Zeebrugge in Belgium.

Ten teenagers, including two 15-year-old boys, were among 39 Vietnamese nationals whose bodies were discovered in the lorry trailer in the early hours of October 23.

Court artist sketch of lorry driver Maurice Robinson at an earlier hearing Credit: Elizabeth Cook/PA

Kennedy appeared alongside co-defendant Maurice Robinson, who faced the court via video-link from Belmarsh jail.

Robinson, known as Mo, has previously admitted conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration between May 1 2018 and October 24 2019 and acquiring criminal property – namely cash.

The 25-year-old, of Laurel Drive in Craigavon in Northern Ireland, has yet to enter pleas to 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to commit human trafficking and transferring criminal property.

During the hearing, Mr Justice Edis set a further hearing for March 16 next year with a provisional trial on October 5 next year.