New details in Essex lorry case revealed at court hinh anh 1The Essex refrigerated lorry (Source: AFP/VNA)

London (VNA) – A British truck driver who discovered 39 dead Vietnamese migrants in a refrigerated lorry waited about 23 minutes before notifying police, a court was told on October 27.

Maurice Robinson, 26, had collected the sealed container from the southeast English port of Purfleet after it had arrived on a cargo ship from Zeebrugge in Belgium, and opened its doors shortly afterwards in nearby Thurrock in the early hours of October 23 last year.

Inside he found the bodies of the migrants who had suffocated to death after being trapped in the dark inside for at least 12 hours, in unbearably high temperatures.

However, instead of immediately calling police, Robinson made several phone calls to others accused of roles in the people-trafficking scheme, a prosecutor told London’s Old Bailey court.

He also drove the truck in a loop around the surrounding industrial area, taking 23 minutes before alerting officers, jurors in the trial of four men charged with involvement heard.

Robinson has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of the 39 migrants and to conspiring in people-smuggling.

Meanwhile, Eamonn Harrison, 23, who is said to have driven the truck to Zeebrugge, and Georghe Nica, 43, both deny 39 counts of manslaughter.

Harrison, Valentin Calota, 37, and Christopher Kennedy, 24, have pleaded not guilty to being part of a people-smuggling conspiracy. But Nica has pleaded guilty to that charge.

The trial, which began earlier this month, is expected to last up to six weeks.

Prosecutors have previously outlined that haulage company boss Ronan Hughes instructed Robinson via a Snapchat message to "give them air quickly but don’t let them out" once he picked up the container in Purfleet.

Hughes has also pleaded guilty to manslaughter and to conspiring in people-smuggling.

Jurors heard new written testimony that a cargo operator at Purfleet smelt a "decomposing smell" as he unloaded the trailer at around midnight - an hour before Robinson opened it.

On October 23 last year, bodies of 39 Vietnamese were discovered in the back of a refrigerated lorry at an industrial estate in Grays in Essex, near London.

Autopsies concluded that the provisional cause of death of the victims was a combination of hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation, and hyperthermia, or overheating, in an enclosed space./.