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Essex lorry deaths: Tears as Vietnamese village buries trafficking tragedy cousins

Family members of Hoang Van Tiep pray over his coffin at the cemetery
Family members of Hoang Van Tiep pray over his coffin at the cemetery

By Hau Dinh

A village in Vietnam has said farewell to two of its sons who were among those who died in a human trafficking tragedy last month.

Their bodies were among 39 Vietnamese people discovered in a lorry in England.

Family members at the funeral
Family members at the funeral

The alleged driver was 25-year-old Maurice Robinson, of Laurel Drive, Craigavon. Coffins with the bodies of cousins Nguyen Van Hung and Hoang Van Tiep were carried to a church in the village of Dien Thinh for a funeral attended by about 300 people.

"Nguyen Van Hung and Hoang Van Tiep left their home town to find a better future for themselves and for their families," said Rev Pham Tri Phuong.

"But the tragedy happened that brought grave pain to the family and for all of us."

The 31 men and eight women, aged between 15 and 44, are believed to have paid human traffickers to smuggle them to England.

While no cause of death has been officially established, the circumstances suggested asphyxiation. The investigation is ongoing, and several people have been arrested in Britain and Vietnam.

A grief-stricken woman at the funeral
A grief-stricken woman at the funeral

In Dien Thinh, a rural village of about 300 households on the coast of north-central Vietnam, they mourned not just the deaths, but also the circumstances. "How can we not be in great pain when seeing their ageing parents have to bid farewell to their young children," the priest told mourners.

"How can we be not in great pain to see our brothers who had to suffer such a way of dying in a place so far from home."

The two cousins were buried side by side.

On Monday in London, Robinson pleaded guilty to plotting with others to assist illegal immigration and acquiring criminal property. Robinson is accused of being part of an international people-smuggling ring, and was not asked to enter pleas to 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to traffic people.

Police say he drove the cab of the vehicle to the port of Purfleet, where it picked up the container, which had arrived by ferry from the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium.

The remains of Nguyen Van Hung (left) and Hoang Van Tiep are laid to rest
The remains of Nguyen Van Hung (left) and Hoang Van Tiep are laid to rest

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