A BRITISH man who tried to smuggle four Albanian migrants into the UK in a rented motorhome has been jailed for 15 months.

Oozy Hughes, 44, was stopped at Harwich Port on March 17, 2018, having taken the vehicle on a ferry arriving into the UK from the Hook of Holland.

Jeremy Hayes, prosecuting at Chelmsford Crown Court, said: “Four illegal immigrants were hiding in the van.”

He said one of them told a Border Force officer that a “black man had put them in the van”.

Hughes, of Catlyn Close in West Malling, Kent, was interviewed at Chelmsford police station and “said he may have left the campervan unlocked while he visited McDonald’s”, Mr Hayes said.

Mr Hayes said telephone messages were seized indicating the defendant’s role was to bring migrants into the UK.

He admitted one count of assisting unlawful immigration at an earlier hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court.

Emma Akuwudike, mitigating, said Hughes had drug debts and a “long-standing addiction to class A crack cocaine”.

“He thought this was at least a way he could pay part of his debts,” she said.

Ms Akuwudike said: “The money was to be received once those people had come to the UK, he received absolutely nothing and has paid a very high price for his involvement.

“He’s named the person who was at the helm of this offence.”

She said he was arrested and released under investigation in 2018 and the pandemic caused “a delay” before the case came to court in 2021, and he admitted his role in September this year ahead of a scheduled trial.

Judge Timothy Godfrey, jailing Hughes for 15 months, said at Wednesday’s sentencing: “The sole purpose of your trip was to bring in at least one asylum seeker.”

Hughes winked to his wife in the public gallery before he was led to the cells.