Belfast Telegraph

Watch: Police urge Northern Ireland brothers to hand themselves in over Essex lorry tragedy

Detectives have urged two brothers from Northern Ireland wanted over the deaths of 39 migrants found in the back of a lorry in Essex to hand themselves in.

At a press conference in Belfast on Friday, police said 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 after the bodies of eight women and 31 men were found in a refrigerated trailer attached to a lorry in an industrial park in Grays in the early hours of Wednesday October 23.

Reports suggested Ronan Hughes phoned police moments after lorry driver Mo Robinson, 25, was arrested following the discovery.

Essex Police Detective Chief Inspector Daniel Stoten told reporters: "Today I want to make a direct appeal - Ronan and Christopher, hand yourselves in to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

"We need you both to come forward and assist this investigation. Although we have already spoken to Ronan Hughes recently by telephone we need to have a conversation with him and his brother in person.

"Talking to Ronan and Christopher is crucial to our investigation and the sooner we can make this happen the sooner we can progress and continue with our investigation."

Detectives have spoken by telephone to Ronan Hughes, one of the brothers wanted over the deaths of 39 migrants found in the back of a lorry in Essex (Aaron Chown/PA)
Detectives have spoken by telephone to Ronan Hughes, one of the brothers wanted over the deaths of 39 migrants found in the back of a lorry in Essex (Aaron Chown/PA)

The detective said a lorry believed to be connected to the brothers was stopped and seized by the PSNI on Thursday, but no further arrests were made.

The pair are said to have links to Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, as well as with the road haulage and shipping industries.

Robinson, of Craigavon, Northern Ireland, appeared at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court on Monday charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration, and money laundering.

Detective Chief Inspector Daniel Stoten from Essex Police pictured during a press conference in Belfast. Credit: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
Detective Chief Inspector Daniel Stoten from Essex Police pictured during a press conference in Belfast. Credit: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

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.

The discovery has sparked a huge international investigation to try to identify the victims.

Essex Police initially believed the 39 were all Chinese nationals, but Vietnamese men and women are feared to be among the dead.

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)

Meanwhile, a 23-year-old man who was arrested in Dublin Port last Saturday and who has been described as a “person of interest” tragedy has been re-arrested by gardai on foot of a European Arrest Warrant.

The Co Down truck driver was arrested by garda detectives in Cloverhill Prison this morning and is expected to appear in court later today.

Detectives received a European Arrest Warrant from police in Essex in relation to the suspect yesterday and executed that warrant in the west Dublin jail this morning where the suspect has been on remand since last Saturday.

He is facing unrelated assault and criminal damage charges in the Republic and has been refused bail after garda objections.

Police have been investigating if the 23-year-old driver was involved in bringing a container which contained 39 people to Zeebrugge Port in Belgium before it was transported to Purfleet in England.

(Additional reporting by PA)

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