Footprints in macaroons raised suspicions before tragic migrant run, court told

Dirty footprints in a consignment of Mrs Crimble’s macaroons raised suspicions of “human activity” days before the deaths of 39 migrants, a court has heard.

On October 23 last year, a group of Vietnamese people suffocated in a sweltering sealed container as it was transported from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Purfleet in Essex.

The tragedy allegedly followed two similar successful people-smuggling runs, the court has heard.

On October 18 last year, boxes of macaroons and Bakewell tarts were transported with migrants on the cross-Channel trip, it is claimed.

Later that day when Christopher Kennedy dropped off the biscuits at Lenham Storage in Sittingbourne, Kent, they were rejected, the court heard.

Bodies found in lorry container
Bodies found in lorry container

In a statement read to court, warehouse worker Adam Letwizki, said: “The top layer was nice and clean but the second layer was dirty and wet as if somebody had stepped on them.

“I thought it must have been people. Clean on top, dirty underneath to try to disguise the damage.”

Warehouse manager Barbara Richmond-Clarke was called to inspect the suspicious load.

She said in her statement: “The seal had been cut by a member of staff, Adam, who said the seal was like new.

“I went into the loading bay. I asked him to unload three pallets so I could look at the stock.

“I could see that the top layer of macaroons looked intact, however underneath them were crushed boxes which had footprints and dirt on them.

Bodies found in lorry container
Bodies found in lorry container

“This confirmed to me that there had been some human activity in the trailer that was not legitimate.”

Before rejecting the load, Ms Richmond-Clarke went to speak to the driver, who told her he was not aware of any human activity in the trailer, jurors heard.

Days later she received an email from the Belgian supplier, revealing that the macaroons and Bakewell tarts appeared to have been moved around since they were loaded.

Earlier, jurors watched CCTV of the alleged successful people-smuggling trip.

On the evening October 17 last year, driver Eamonn Harrison was captured on film as he dropped off a trailer, allegedly containing the biscuits and migrants, at the port of Zeebrugge.

During the journey, the temperature in the container rose, peaking at 25.2C, an indication of the extra body heat, it is claimed.

The ship transporting the trailer docked at Purfleet at 6am the next morning and it was picked up by Kennedy in another lorry.

Jurors were shown CCTV of Kennedy’s truck in the loading area at Purfleet.

He is then seen driving past Orsett Golf Course, near where haulier boss Ronan Hughes, alleged organiser Gheorghe Nica, Valentin Calota and outstanding suspect Marius Draghici were waiting with a fleet of vehicles, it is claimed.

Jurors heard that before going to Lenham Storage, Kennedy stopped off at Lympne industrial estate, in Kent, followed by Hughes in a Passat.

Harrison, 23, Kennedy, 24, of Co Armagh, Northern Ireland, and Calota, 37, of Birmingham, have denied involvement in a people-smuggling plot, which Nica admits.

Harrison, of County Down, and Nica, 43, of Basildon, Essex, have denied 39 counts of manslaughter while Maurice Robinson, and Hughes, have admitted the charges.