Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland pair wanted by Essex police over lorry deaths unfazed by raids

Christopher and Ronan Hughes (Essex Police/PA)
Christopher and Ronan Hughes (Essex Police/PA)
Some of the vehicles seized from properties linked to Ronan Hughes and his brother Christopher Hughes
Some of the vehicles seized from properties linked to Ronan Hughes and his brother Christopher Hughes
Some of the vehicles seized from properties linked to Ronan Hughes and his brother Christopher Hughes
Christopher Hughes
Ronan Hughes

By Ken Foy and Tom Brady

Two brothers who English police want to question over the deaths of 39 people in the back of a truck in Essex last month were present in their Co Monaghan homes yesterday when armed gardaí raided the properties.

Ronan Hughes (40) and his brother Christopher (34) are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking by Essex Police, but the UK authorities have not obtained European arrest warrants for the pair.

The brothers were present at their homes in Tyholland during the raid and senior sources say the duo were unfazed about the huge Garda operation which started at around 6am.

Gardaí were unable to arrest the brothers as they have not received a warrant from English police.

"They were very calm. They showed no concern despite what the English police have said about them," a senior source said. "These lads are not on the run, they are not in hiding - they are living their life and operating their jobs as they always have.

"There is no arrest warrant for them here and they were not bothered that gardaí were searching their house at all - it was an attitude of, 'if there is something illegal here, find it'."

Nothing illegal was discovered at the properties linked to the Hughes brothers but a number of vehicles were seized, including a Mitsubishi SUV registered to Mo Robinson - the Co Armagh truck driver already charged with 39 counts of manslaughter in Essex.

Police claim Robinson drove the cab of the truck to the English port of Purfleet, where it collected the trailer unit, which had arrived by ferry from Zeebrugge port in Belgium.

Also seized during the searches were a 192-registered X5 BMW M Sport, a 2016 X5 BMW, a 2014 2.8-litre VW transporter crew cab, financial documents and records and electronic devices as well as sums of €1,400, $900 and £600 in cash. However, no arrests were made and no stolen vehicles recovered.

Gardaí said in a statement that a number of restraining orders relating to accounts in financial institutions had been made by a district court judge under money laundering and terrorist financing legislation.

Last Tuesday, Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) officers detained a Northern Ireland-registered tractor unit and curtain-side trailer at Dublin Port. The CAB also detained a Bulgarian-registered tractor unit and curtain-side trailer at the same time.

The CAB said the raids were not linked to the Essex case.

Meanwhile, British police have released on bail three other people they had arrested in connection with their investigation, pending further inquiries.

In Dublin, a 22-year-old man is facing extradition proceedings to bring him to the UK to face manslaughter charges. Eight people have been arrested by police in Vietnam on suspicion of involvement in human smuggling. The CAB is also securing orders from a district court judge to freeze slightly more than €200,000 being held in 19 bank and credit union accounts.

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