Covid test result delay stalls Essex lorry deaths trial at Old Bailey

The Old Bailey trial of an alleged people smuggling ring linked to the deaths of 39 migrants in a lorry container has stalled over a missing Covid-19 test result.

On Monday, the manslaughter trial was halted after the first witness in the case became ill while giving evidence.

Mr Justice Sweeney adjourned proceedings so that the unwell police analyst could be tested for coronavirus to be “extra sure”.

On Wednesday afternoon, the judge apologised to jurors as they resumed their socially distanced seats in Court 16 of the Old Bailey, saying they were “no further forward” in knowing the result.

The judge said: “Because there was a good reason for him to have the test it is therefore essential for him to have the result before we know what to do next.

“Even though it has been reported to me he is feeling much better but nervous about returning to the witness box, I’m not prepared to take any short-cuts.

“We are all going to have to wait until we receive the relevant text message. At the moment he has not received it.”

The judge adjourned the case until 2pm to “take stock” and to see if the witness has received any news.

Ghoerghe Nica, 43, of Basildon, Essex, and lorry driver Eamonn Harrison, 23, deny the manslaughters of 39 Vientamese people, aged between 15 and 44, who suffocated in a trailer as it was transported from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Purfleet in Essex overnight on October 22 last year.

Harrison, of Mayobridge, Co Down, Northern Ireland, Christopher Kennedy, 24, of Co Armagh, Northern Ireland, and Valentin Calota, 37, of Birmingham, deny being part of the people-smuggling conspiracy, which Nica has admitted.

The trial is expected to go on for up to six weeks.