A Glenavy man who went on the run after being found smuggling children and adults into the UK has been jailed for nearly three years.
Lorry driver Terence McVarnock, 50, of Tullynewbank Road, Glenavy, Co Antrim was stopped by Border Force officers on 28 July 2015 at Dover after arriving on a ferry from Calais. A search of the driver’s cabin area revealed a minor in the lower bunk area covered by a duvet. A further minor and adult man and woman were also discovered hidden the bunk area.
McVarnock was taken to Folkestone police station and during an interview under caution, denied any knowledge of the people hidden in his lorry. A further search of the vehicle revealed £2,800 hidden behind the dashboard stereo which he claimed was his life savings as he does not use banks. The money was seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The investigation was passed to Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigation (CFI) team and McVarnock was subsequently charged with assisting unlawful immigration into the UK.
He was bailed to appear at Folkestone Magistrates Court on 7 September 2015, where he pleaded not guilty. He was further bailed to appear at Canterbury Crown Court on the 23 November 2015 but failed to attend and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Since being at large McVarnock went to great lengths to avoid capture including changing his name by Deed Poll to Brody and frequently changing his rented addresses and vehicles.
Diligent work by the CFI team, which included forensic examination of public records and social media sites, revealed that McVarnock was living at an address in Glenavy Co Antrim where he was arrested on 18 April with PSNI support.
McVarnock appeared at Canterbury Crown Court on Friday, 20 April where he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 28 months for facilitating illegal immigration and six months to run consecutively for bail offences.
Dave Magrath, from Immigration Enforcement’s CFI team, said:
“Although McVarnock took extreme measures to avoid facing up to his crimes, in the end the law caught up with him and he’s paying the price with his liberty.
“We work closely with Border Force colleagues and law enforcement such as the PSNI, to rigorously investigate allegations of immigration related criminality and this case should serve as a warning to anyone tempted to get involved with this kind of offending. We will catch you, however long this takes, and put you before the courts.”
Paul Morgan, Director of Border Force South East and Europe, said the adults and minors were concealed in a cramped and uncomfortable section of the driver’s cab.
“People smugglers care little about the conditions in which they transport their human cargo, often putting the lives of others at risk,” he said.
A confiscation hearing held at Folkestone Magistrates Court on the 29th July 2015 returned the £2,800 to the public purse.
The cases of the four people discovered in McVarnock’s lorry, who presented themselves as Albanian nationals, are being progressed by the Home Office in line with immigration rules.