Belfast Telegraph

Essex lorry deaths: Police believe 39 victims all Vietnamese nationals

39 people were found dead inside the lorry at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex (Aaron Chown/PA)
39 people were found dead inside the lorry at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex (Aaron Chown/PA)
Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

Police investigating the deaths of 39 migrants in a lorry container in England believe the victims are all Vietnamese nationals.

Essex Police had originally believed all of the victims were Chinese nationals. However, on Friday evening a statement from the force said this was not the case.

"Essex Police is continuing to work closely with HM Senior Coroner and the National Crime Agency to progress the investigation and help identify the victims," the statement said.

"At this time, we believe the victims are Vietnamese nationals, and we are in contact with the Vietnamese Government.

"We are in direct contact with a number of families in Vietnam and the UK, and we believe we have identified families for some of the victims whose journey ended in tragedy on our shores."

Essex Police said confirmatory evidence needed to formally present cases to the coroner has not yet been obtained.

The statement added: "This evidence is being gathered across a number of jurisdictions worldwide.

"As a result, we cannot at this time announce the identity of any of the victims. We will continue to co-operate closely with the Vietnamese Government, and others, to identify the victims and offer our support to all those affected by this tragedy. 

"From the outset, our thoughts have been and remain with those who have lost loved ones in this tragic incident."

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Vietnamese woman Pham Thi Tra Thomas is feared to be among the dead.

Eight females and 31 males were found in the back of the lorry at 1.38am on October 23 in Grays in Essex.

The driver of the lorry Maurice Robinson (25), from Craigavon, has been charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering. He has been remanded in custody.

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Mo Robinson

Another truck driver from Northern Ireland is also facing manslaughter and human trafficking conspiracy charges over the deaths of the migrants.

Eamon Harrison (23), from Co Down, was arrested on foot of a European Arrest Warrant today and brought before the High Court, where the Irish authorities are seeking to have him surrendered for extradition to the UK.

The court heard British authorities want his extradition for prosecution on 39 counts of manslaughter, one charge of conspiracy to commit human trafficking and another of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Mr Justice Donald Binchy adjourned the case for an extradition hearing later this month.

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Eamon Harrison (23) from Co Down

Detectives have also urged two brothers from Northern Ireland who are wanted in connection with the case to hand themselves in to the PSNI.

At a press conference in Belfast on Friday, police said they have spoken by telephone to one of the brothers, Ronan Hughes, 40, and Christopher Hughes, 34, from Armagh.

The pair are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking.

Reports suggested Ronan Hughes phoned police moments after lorry driver Mr Robinson was arrested following the discovery.

Three other people arrested in connection with the incident - two men aged 38 and 46 and a 38-year-old woman - have been released on bail.

Detectives have appeal to anyone who has information that may assist them in identifying the victims to contact Essex Police.

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