The Dutch driver of a truck in which 58 Chinese immigrants were found dead at Dover port last year played a full and knowing part in transporting them to their deaths, prosecutors said on Wednesday.
Perry Wacker, 32, from Rotterdam, faces 58 manslaughter charges as well as charges of smuggling and conspiracy to smuggle immigrants.
The Chinese victims in the case, 54 men and four women, were found suffocated in a refrigerated lorry as it arrived off a ferry from Belgium on the night of June 18-19 last year.
Only two of the 60 immigrants, who had been packed into a container carrying tomatoes, survived the journey to Dover.
Victor Temple, the prosecuting lawyer in the case at Maidstone Court in southern England, told the jury of nine women and three men that Wacker had bought a refrigerated container and a “cover” load of tomatoes several days earlier.
“The defendant Wacker does not fall into the role of a driver who is recruited at the last minute for a one-off backhander (bribe),” Temple told the court. “The defendant Wacker was much more deeply involved.”
Prosecutors showed the jury photographs which they said placed Wacker at a warehouse in the Netherlands buying a load of tomatoes on June 16.
Temple added that Wacker had been identified to police by the man who sold him the tomatoes.
“What was the purpose of the tomatoes?” Temple asked.
“They were to provide cover at the rear of the container and so hide the 60 Chinese from the prying eyes of any customs officer who might wish to make a spot check.”
Police who made the gruesome discovery of the bodies said the truck’s cooling system had been switched off.
With summer temperatures reaching 32 degrees Celsius (90 Fahrenheit) the migrants screamed and banged on the sides of the container, desperate to attract attention as their single air vent was shut off.
Prosecutors are expected to call the two survivors, Su di Ke and Shi Guang Ke, as well as customs officers who found the 58 dead Chinese, as witnesses in the case. Wacker denies the charges.
(China Daily 02/28/2001)