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Monday, 5 March, 2001, 15:22 GMT
Lorry floor 'covered in bodies'
Police work near where the bodies of 58 Chinese immigrants were found
Boxes of tomatoes concealed the bodies, officials say
Harbour officials and customs officers found "a sea of bodies" covering the floor of a container lorry, a court has heard.

Freight supervisors at Dover, who were called in to help unload boxes of tomatoes piled up at its rear, at first thought the floor of the container had wooden pallets on it.

But on closer inspection they realised the boxes were concealing the bodies of 58 Chinese immigrants.

The 54 men and four women had been hiding in the sealed lorry container to illegally enter Britain, Maidstone Crown Court has been told.

I can remember it was very hot, when refrigerated containers carrying fruit are normally cold

Barry Betts

Shocked officials discovered the bodies at Dover's eastern docks on 18 June last year. They also pulled out two male survivors.

Perry Wacker, 32, of Rotterdam, Holland, is charged with 58 counts of manslaughter and four counts of conspiracy to smuggle people into Britain.

A female interpreter, Ying Guo, 29, of South Woodford, Essex, is jointly charged with Wacker on another count of conspiracy to smuggle immigrants into the country.

They both deny all charges.

Customs, immigration and Port of Dover officials described the gruesome scene they encountered in the lorry during the fourth day of the trial.

A statement from freight supervisor Barry Betts told how he was called in to help unload the lorry container when Customs officers realised there were bodies behind the boxes of tomatoes.

A lorry being searched
Lorries are searched for immigrants daily
Mr Betts said: "When I got to the area people were already unloading boxes. I could clearly see the body of a young Chinese man where the boxes had been, possibly a teenager.

"Myself and (freight supervisor) Darren Bailey got inside and I can remember it was very hot, when refrigerated containers carrying fruit are normally cold.

"We were clearing tomatoes from around this male's body, and as I shone my torch in and peered past the wooden structures holding up the boxes into the darkness.

"I was confronted by a sea of bodies which all appeared to be motionless."

He continued: "I could see a young boy who was tapping the side of the container to try to attract our attention.

"I remember seeing another young man moving and he began climbing over other bodies to get to us. When he did we helped him out.

"It was clear there was no-one else alive."

The trial continues.

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