Irish man pleads guilty over Vietnamese truck deaths in UK

LONDON (Reuters) - A 40-year-old Irish haulier pleaded guilty on Friday to the manslaughter of 39 Vietnamese men, women and boys found dead in the back of a refrigerated truck near London last year. Ronan Hughes appeared at the Old Bailey court following the discovery of the bodies in October, in a case that shocked Britain and Vietnam and shone a light on the illicit human smuggling trade. Thirty-one of the victims were men or boys, and eight were women.

The oldest was 44 and three were aged under 18, including two 15-year-old boys. Most were from Nghe An and Ha Tinh provinces in north-central Vietnam, where poor job prospects, environmental disasters and the promise of financial reward fuel migration. Hughes also admitted conspiring to assist unlawful immigration.

The driver of the truck when it was found on an industrial estate in Essex to the east of London - Maurice Robinson from northern Ireland - had already pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges.

A third man, Eamonn Harrison, 23, also from the British province of Northern Ireland, pleaded not guilty to the same charges.

Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; writing by Kate Holton; editing by Stephen Addison

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