Smuggler sneaked Vietnamese men and girl, 15, in ‘airtight’ Ford Focus roof box

A smuggler caught trying to sneak three migrants into the UK in the “airtight” roof box of his car has been jailed for three years.

Two men and a 15-year-old girl from Vietnam were found crammed inside the tiny compartment on top of HGV driver Robert Rooney’s Ford Focus.

A court heard how Rooney, 35, told officials in the UK controlled zone at the Channel Tunnel in Coquelles, France, the box had “camping stuff” inside.

But when Border Force officers opened it, the first thing they saw was a “human arm”. Harrowing pictures show the migrants inside the roof box, which is not much bigger than a suitcase.

Prosecutor Bridget Todd told Canterbury crown court the box was, “an airtight concealment”, adding: “There was no attempt to put any ventilation in the box.

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“Should the box have become detached on the motorway, the result would have been catastrophic.”

She added that the dad-of-three had “clearly intended to gain financially” in the smuggling attempt.

Rooney, originally from Ireland, had admitted facilitating illegal entry at an earlier hearing.

His defence barrister James Burke said his client had been “struggling financially with overdrafts and loans”.

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He added: “He succumbed to the temptation of a solution to these problems.”

Jailing him for three years today, Judge Catherine Brown said: “These were people who were strangers to you.

“It was a high-risk venture given the very cramped conditions.

“There would have been no ventilation for them. If there had been a delay in crossing, this could very well have had tragic consequences.

“They may themselves have been at real risk of being further exploited.”

Border Force regional director Dan Scully said after the hearing: “Smuggling people into the UK in this way is incredibly dangerous and put the lives of the individuals at huge risk.

“Crammed into a confined space inside the roof box must have been terrifying.”

Deputy director Dave Fairclough, from the Immigration Enforcement’s Criminal and Financial Investigation team, added: “Rooney deliberately placed three people in an extremely precarious situation.

“He was prepared to turn a blind eye to the obvious risks as long as he was benefiting.

“He has rightly been handed a custodial sentence.”

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