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Police hail driver's conviction

KENT, England -- Police have welcomed the conviction of the Dutch lorry driver found guilty of the manslaughter of 58 Chinese immigrants.

They said the 14-year sentence passed on Perry Wacker was a step forward in their battle to beat organised gangs illegally transporting people into Britain.

The 33-year-old was found guilty on Thursday of 58 counts of manslaughter and four counts of conspiracy to smuggle illegal immigrants into Britain.

Detective Chief Inspector Bob Nelson said Kent Police were delighted with the outcome.

He said: "Organised criminals make arrangements to smuggle people into the country and are motivated by one thing -- money.

"In Perry Wacker's lorry, 58 people lost their lives. I shudder to think what might have happened had they not been intercepted at the port."

Nelson said Thursday's verdict was the result of a painstaking operation that took eight months to complete and involved the "tireless" effort of 60 detectives plus support staff.

He said: "Within hours of the tragedy, offers of assistance poured in from European law enforcement agencies. We have worked very closely with the Dutch, exchanging information and evidence," he said.

Nelson said Wacker had played a key part in organising the smuggling of the Chinese immigrants into the country.

He said he had no doubt that Wacker would have known about an incident two months earlier, when 50 Chinese immigrants nearly suffoctated in the back of another lorry driven by his friend.

Nelson said: "Wacker closed the vent before the port at Zeebrugge and had no intention of opening it until he had cleared the port of Dover.

"He did not check on the welfare of the illegal passengers. They were sealed up for at least six-and-a-half hours. At best they had five-and-a-half hours worth of oxygen."

The jury accepted the detective's claim that Wacker was "criminally negligent" after he failed to make sufficient provisions for the immigrants.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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