Accused allegedly seen driving van used to transport illegal immigrant

Lawrence Bugeja admitted controlling and coercive behaviour and criminal damage at Ipswich Crown Court.

The case is being heard at Ipswich Crown Court - Credit: Archant

A Trimley man accused of being part of a gang which tried to smuggle an illegal immigrant into the UK in a purpose-built hidden compartment in the back of a van was allegedly seen looking into the back of the vehicle in Ipswich shortly before it set off for Dover, a court has heard.

John Lockwood was with three other men, including Richard Halls from Melton, in Rosehill Road, Ipswich, looking into the rear of the van with torches the day before it was driven to Dover to catch a ferry to Calais, Ipswich Crown Court was told.

Dc Garry McCormick said the men spent about 30 minutes talking and looking at the van before Halls drove it to nearby Newton Road and reversed it onto a driveway.

The next day Halls had driven the van to a car park at Ipswich Hospital and had allegedly met up with Lockwood who was driving a VW pickup truck.

Halls had taken a toolbox from the pickup and put it in the van and Lockwood was then allegedly seen to drive off in the van before it was driven to Dover by Elliott Thompson of Ipswich Road, Stowmarket.

Wayne Cleaver, prosecuting, has alleged that Lockwood arranged to meet Thompson in a hotel in Calais and had travelled back to Dover on the same ferry as the van with the illegal immigrant hidden inside.

Lockwood, 32, of Mill Close, Trimley St Martin, has denied assisting in the unlawful immigration of an Albanian national between October 14 and 17, 2019, by arranging with others for him to hide in the back of a van on a P&O ferry at Dover.

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The court has heard that Richard Halls, 39, of St Andrews Place, Melton, Thompson and three other men had admitted the charge at earlier hearings.

Lockwood told police he wasn’t part of the smuggling plan and said when he travelled to France he didn’t know what the other people he was with were up to.

“We say he was a knowing and willing participant in a joint enterprise to evade immigration controls,” said Mr Cleaver.

The trial continues.