People trafficker from Armagh jailed for deaths of 39 people is ordered to pay £180,000 compensation

People trafficker from Armagh jailed for deaths of 39 people is ordered to pay £180,000 compensation

A MAN from Co. Armagh jailed for 20 years following the deaths of 39 people in a trafficking operation he was involved in must pay the victims' families £180,000.

Ronan Hughes, 43, was jailed for 20 years on January 22, 2022 after admitting 39 counts of manslaughter and one count of assisting unlawful immigration.

The victims — men, women and children as young as 15 — were found dead in October 2019 after they had paid up to £13,000 to be transported from Vietnam to Britain.

They suffocated after the container they were transported in from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Essex in England ran out of air.

The compensation totalling £182,078.90 — made up of assets such as cash, machinery and a property owned by Hughes in Leitrim, Co. Monaghan — means each of the 39 victims' families will receive £4,668.

The 39 victims, the youngest of whom were two 15-year-old boys (Images: Essex Police/AFP via Getty Images)

"There is no price that can be put on the life of a loved one and money seems so insignificant given what the victims' families have been through," Detective Chief Inspector Louise Metcalfe of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said on Thursday.

"But what this does demonstrate is that we are continuing that same determination to secure justice for the victims and their families that we promised in October 2019.

"We won't rest until every single person who we believe to be involved in this tragedy is punished accordingly and their criminal gains recouped and distributed to the families."

In total, 10 people have been convicted for their parts in the conspiracy and have been sentenced to a total of more than 100 years in prison.

From left, Eamonn Harrison, Maurice Robinson and Christopher Kennedy (images: Essex Police/AFP via Getty Images; THAMES VALLEY POLICE/AFP via Getty Images)

They include Eamonn Harrison from Co. Down, who collected the victims in northern France before dropping the container at Zeebrugge.

He was found guilty of people-smuggling and 39 counts of manslaughter in December 2020 and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Maurice Robinson from Co. Armagh picked up the trailer in Purfleet, Essex and discovered the bodies.

He was sentenced to 13 years and four months in January 2021 after pleading guilty to manslaughter and people-smuggling.

Christopher Kennedy from Co. Armagh was jailed for seven years for his part in the wider smuggling operation, having been found guilty of conspiracy to assist in unlawful immigration.

In March 2022, following Proceeds of Crime Act hearings, Robinson was ordered to pay back £21,262, while Kennedy was told he must pay back £6,094.