AN ESKDALE lorry driver has returned safe and sound to his family after an anxious four days in isolation in a Dutch prison.
John Warbeck, who lives just outside Chapelknowe with wife, Claire, and children Chloe, Gregor and twins Evan and Mirren, was driving his truck from France to Germany when he was stopped by police in The Netherlands.
The police found 10 migrants in the trailer and John was arrested and taken for questioning by the border police.
Believing the matter would be quickly sorted because he knew of the migrants on board, things soon turned sour and he found himself in a nightmare with no contact with the outside world.
His family were left wondering why he had “disappeared” and had no idea where he was being kept.
John, 57, has been a full-time international lorry driver for five years, working for Centurion Freight in Harthill near Glasgow.
He said all the drivers were aware of the situation with refugees and migrants and every one of them had a story to tell.
John began his journey from the customer in Glasgow on Friday, February 19 and, after an overnight rest, drove to Dover where he boarded the ferry for Calais.
After disembarking, he had only 30 minutes of driving time left so drove to a truck stop outside Dunkirk where he spent the night in his cab.
He heard nothing during the night and in the morning checked everything was secure, including the seal on the trailer door with its unique number and the crab lock.
He drove into The Netherlands on the Sunday and was near Eindhoven when a number of police cars surrounded his truck and asked him to pull in, which he did.
He was shocked when the officers told him he had migrants in the trailer which he was asked to open.
While the migrants were getting out, the police questioned him and asked him for all his documents. They then arrested and handcuffed him.
He said: “The migrant situation is one we are aware of; there are hundreds, if not thousands of them, all along the French coast so it wasn’t a surprise they were in my truck but it was a sobering sight.
“I just didn’t know how they had got in when the trailer was locked.”
This was merely the beginning of a frightening and stressful week for John who managed only a quick call to Claire before the border police took him for questioning.
He spent one night in a local police station cell and returned for more questions the next day. He had been assigned a lawyer.
At that point, the police said they believed he was telling the truth and he could book into a hotel that night while they carried on with their enquiries.
His only clue as to why the migrants were in his truck, which was heading for Germany and not the UK, was that they made a mistake, thinking it was heading across the Channel.
Or it could have been that the smugglers just took their money and put them on any available lorry.
The police told him it was up to the prosecutor to decide what to do with him but he was feeling positive that they believed him and they even lent him a phone to ring Gregor because it was his 15th birthday.
But it all went wrong when it was discovered that the CMR document, provided by his customer in Glasgow, did not have the unique seal number written on it so it could be checked against the seal on the trailer.
John did not check the CMR document but there should have been no need to.
When John was ready to go to the hotel, the border police took him instead to the police station cell.
The next day, Tuesday, they told him he was placed under restrictions and could have no contact with anyone, except his lawyer.
He said: “My lawyer rang me that evening and said I would appear in court the next day.”
The migrants’ evidence, given to his lawyer, showed that someone had broken into the truck at 3am while it was parked in Dunkirk but they did not incriminate John.
He said: “The prosecutor wanted me to be remanded for 14 days, despite my lawyer saying there was no evidence against me and the fact they had a record of all my movements and paperwork.”
However, the judge decided to remand John because he said he had done insufficient security checks on his trailer in an area known to be used by migrants.
Fortunately, his lawyer told him this was not a criminal offence and he could not be remanded for that reason.
John was sent to prison that evening and had no way of contacting anyone. His lawyer could tell Claire he was in prison but not where.
He tried to get the authorities to let him contact the British Consul but they refused.
His lawyer submitted an appeal but it would not be heard for another week.
His release was sudden and unexpected and he found himself sitting in disbelief in reception at the border police headquarters.
He said: “I asked an officer how the police knew the migrants were in my truck and I didn’t.
“He said the migrants, using their mobile phones, realised they were going the wrong way, so they called the police.
“There are desperate people wanting to cross the England and criminals preying on them. They aren’t interested in where the wagons are going but only in the money they’re being paid.
“I also told the police I couldn’t hear the people banging on the side of the trailer because other noises drowned them out.
“They tried this out for themselves and realised I was telling the truth.
: “I had nothing to hide and thought the process would over more quickly and not take the cruel twist it did on Monday evening.”
Once released, John picked up his load and drove it to the customer in Duisburg before arriving home on Tuesday evening.