Essex

Tilbury Docks container death case: Men accused treated humans as 'freight'

The container in which a group of migrants was found in at Tilbury docks Image copyright Essex Police
Image caption One man, Meet Singh Kapoor, was found dead inside the container

Four men accused of attempting to smuggle 35 immigrants into the UK in a shipping container treated human beings as "freight", a court has heard.

Meet Singh Kapoor, 40, was found dead in a shipping container at Tilbury docks in Essex in August last year.

Stephen McLaughlin, Timothy Murphy, Martin McGlinchey and Taha Sharif have all pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to facilitate illegal entry into the UK.

Jurors heard the migrants were found distressed and in cramped conditions.

The group of Afghan Sikh migrants, which included 15 children, arrived in the UK on a ship from Belgium on 16 August. They are believed to have fled Afghanistan after suffering persecution.

A prosecuting lawyer told Basildon crown court on Wednesday that the accused were part of a "large and organised" smuggling syndicate that had attempted to break UK immigration laws on at least one previous occasion.

"This operation involved effectively smuggling human beings into this country as freight," the lawyer said.

Uncovered

Mr McLaughlin, 34, of Limavady in Londonderry was arrested on 20 August by police in Northern Ireland.

Mr Murphy, 33, of Elmgrove, Londonderry attended an Essex police station.

The two other men, Mr McGlinchey, 47, of Derryloughan Road, Coalisland, County Tyrone and Taha Sharif, 38, of High Cross Road, Tottenham, were also detained in connection with the case.

The prosecutor said the second smuggling attempt was uncovered when dock workers heard noises inside the container after it arrived on a ship from Belgium.

"The police broke the seal and rear doors and the 35 illegal entrants were found on board in a distressed state," he told the court.

"They were found to be suffering from breathing difficulties and other difficulties having been locked in a confined space since the previous day.

"One of the people had died during the crossing overnight."

The lawyer said the defendants had taken huge risks but had a "substantial financial motive".

All of the immigrants are now claiming asylum in the UK, the court heard.

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