Tuesday, March 3, 2020

People smuggler jailed after hiding Vietnamese migrants in 'airtight' roof box

A father-of-three has been jailed for three years after cramming three Vietnamese migrants into a tiny ‘airtight’ roof box on his car and attempting to smuggle them into the UK.

Robert Rooney, 35, stuffed two men and a teenage girl, 15, into the box on top of his Ford Focus in France on October 5, but was stopped by officers at the UK-controlled zone at the Channel Tunnel in Coquelles.

Harrowing pictures show the three in the space, which is not much bigger than a suitcase, during the incident which ‘could have had tragic consequences’.

The people smuggler, from Edmonton, north London, had told Border Force representatives he ‘just had camping stuff in there’, claiming he did not know where the keys to open it.

The first thing officers saw when they opened the box at a nearby garage shortly before 4pm was a ‘human arm’, Canterbury Crown Court in Kent heard.

The Irish-born HGV driver was arrested and when quizzed by police, told them: ‘I did know what I was doing, but I will be making no further comment.’

Prosecutor Bridget Todd said the box was ‘an airtight concealment’, adding that there was ‘no attempt to put any ventilation in the box. Should the box have become detached on the motorway, the result would have been catastrophic’.

She added that Rooney had ‘clearly intended to gain financially’, with people smugglers often charging thousands per person to bring them into the UK.

It remains unknown if the migrants, who were served with deportation documents, were being brought into the UK to live or be exploited for work.