Percy Wacker

In Great Britain, in 2001 Percy Wacker, a 33-year-old truck driver from the Netherlands was sentenced to fourteen years in prison for manslaughter. He had been found guilty of killing 58 Chinese migrants who had suffocated in the back of his truck on June 18, 2000. At the same time as Percy was sentenced to prison, Ying Guo, a thirty-year-old translator living in England was sentenced to six years in jail. She was going to help the migrants after they arrived in England.

Percy and Ying Guo were working for a gang of ‘people smugglers’ in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The leader of the gang was Gurzel Ozcan from Turkey. He and seven other members of the gang were arrested in the Netherlands. They were also charged with manslaughter.

Percy was going to get about US$35,000 for driving the truck from Rotterdam to Zeebrugge in Belgium and then taking it across to England on a ferry. It was a very hot day, but even so, when he got to Zeebrugge, Percy closed the air vent on the side of the truck’s trailer so no one would hear the people inside. The vent was the only opening; when it was closed, no fresh air could get inside the trailer.

While the ferry crossed the English Channel, Percy ate a meal. Then he watched two videos.

While he was enjoying himself, the people inside the trailer got hotter and hotter. First they took off their clothes. Then they started drinking water to try to stay cool. When they had finished all their water, they started to eat tomatoes to get moisture. (A large load of tomatoes had been put in the back of the trailer to hide the people.)

As time passed, the oxygen began to run out and the trailer slowly filled up with poisonous carbon dioxide. The people inside began to find it difficult to breathe. They realized that if they couldn’t get fresh air quickly, they were going to die. The ones who still had enough strength began to make noise by hitting the side of the trailer and shouting. Others just sat down and held hands and waited.

When the ferry arrived in Dover, only two of the sixty people in the trailer were still alive. While the customs officials were opening the door, Percy stood calmly behind them patting the head of a sniffer dog. When they opened the door at the back of the trailer, the first thing the officials noticed was the great heat inside. Then they saw what one of them later described as a ‘sea of bodies’.

The two survivors were allowed to stay in Great Britain for two years.

- information from: The Guardian Weekly, (Paul Kelso)