A PEOPLE smuggler tried to fool sniffer dogs with chilli powder as he tried to smuggle an Iraqi family through Harwich International Port.

On Wednesday, Skelly Monpierre, 28, from Lincoln, was sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court to three years in prison for assisting illegal immigration.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard:

  • Sentenced - Skelly Monpierre, 28, was sentenced  to three years in prison for assisting illegal immigration

His co-conspirator Patricia Ferreira, 25, who has previously admitted to assisting unlawful immigration to the UK, failed to appear at court and a warrant has been issued for her arrest.

Monpierre, who was driving the vehicle, was stopped at the port on February 21, 2016, with Ferreira, 25, as a passenger.

A Border Force officer had opened a locked rear luggage compartment to search the camper van and discovered four people, a couple and two young children, crammed inside hiding under a sheet.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard:

  • Powder - Chili powder used to try and fool sniffer dogs 

Stuart Cooper, from the Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigation team, said: "This was a deliberate and concerted attempt to evade the UK's immigration controls.

"Monpierre and Ferreira had gone to great lengths to conceal their human cargo, even rubbing chilli powder around the edges of the luggage compartment in an effort to conceal the scent from sniffer dogs."

Monpierre also admitted two charges of possession of class A drugs with intent to supply.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard:

  • Warrant - Patricia Ferreira, 25, failed to appear at court and a warrant has been issued for her arrest

He was sentenced to two years and eight months for each charge to run concurrently.

These concurrent sentences will run consecutively to the three years received for people smuggling, making a total of five years and eight months in prison.

Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Ferreira, whose last known address was Monks Road, Lincoln, is asked to call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.