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The BBC's Chris Hogg:
Looks at the events which lead to the deaths of 58 people
 real 28k

The BBC's Jane Peel
"It condemned 58 immigrants to an appalling death"
 real 56k

Jabez Lam, Chinese community worker,
describes how these deaths will do little to put off other Chinese immigrants from making the trip
 real 28k

Thursday, 5 April, 2001, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Driver jailed over immigrant deaths
The fateful lorry
Customs officials spoke of a sea of motionless bodies
A Dutch lorry driver has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for his involvement in the deaths of 58 Chinese immigrants at Dover.

The jury at Maidstone Crown Court found Perry Wacker guilty of 58 charges of manslaughter, as well as four counts of conspiracy to smuggle immigrants into the UK.

He was given eight years for conspiracy, and six years for manslaughter.

Co-accused Ying Guo, 33, of South Woodford, Essex, was jailed for six years for conspiring to smuggle illegal immigrants into Britain.

The sentence cannot truly reflect the tragedy of so many deaths

Mr Justice Alan Moses
In passing sentencing Mr Justice Alan Moses said that Wacker had treated the victims as 'cargo'.

"People like you create a risk of greater prejudice against those people who quite legitimately come to this country seeking refuge as asylum seekers or whatever," he said.

To Yuo, the judge said: "The sentence cannot truly reflect the tragedy of so many deaths."

The jury of nine women and three men convicted them on unanimous verdicts after nearly 13 hours of deliberations following a six-week trial.

Wacker, 33, from Rotterdam closed the only air vent on the side of the container to avoid detection by immigration officials.

'Sea of bodies'

Port officials discovered the bodies of 54 men and four women, suffocated in the sealed container, after inspecting the lorry at Dover on 18 June last year.

Customs officials told the trial how they were confronted by a "sea of motionless bodies" when they searched Wacker's lorry at Dover.

Only two of the 60 immigrants hidden in the back of a lorry driven by Wacker survived the five-hour sea journey from Belgium to the UK.

Customs officer David Bell explained how he looked over the top of boxes of tomatoes used to hide the immigrants.

Perry Wacker
Perry Wacker treated his victims as 'cargo'

He said: "I thought I could see human bodies, but there was no movement when I shouted to get their attention."

The jury heard harrowing testimonies from the two survivors about the immigrants' frantic efforts to break out of the air-tight container.

Wacker claimed he thought he was bringing over tomatoes but fingerprint and DNA evidence linked him to the warehouse where the Chinese immigrants were held before they were locked into the container.

When he was stopped by customs officers in Dover, he joked and chatted.

Justice for victims

"You did not have the slightest heed for their welfare," declared Victor Temple, QC for the prosecution.

Tragically for these 58 victims, commercial gain took precedence over human life

CPS prosecutor Karen Wiseman

The verdicts mark the end of 10 months of work by the prosecution, working with the Dutch legal authorities.

After the conviction, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it had ended in justice for the victims.

CPS prosecutor Karen Wiseman said: "The smuggling of humans has become as profitable as drugs.

"This trade hinges on the promise that at the end of the journey the illegal immigrants are heading for a better life.

"Tragically for these 58 victims, commercial gain took precedence over human life."

Police said 60 officers had worked "tirelessly" on the case, including a team from the Dutch force.

Det Supt Bob Nelson, from Kent police, said Chinese illegal immigrants were wooed to the UK by "snakehead" criminal gangs.

"They provide them with pictures of previous immigrants with fast cars and large houses.

"I have pictures which prove the reality.

"I could provide the starkest anti-marketing material against this illegal trade."

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