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Essex deaths trucker Mo Robinson (25) facing court charged with manslaughter of 39 migrants

The scene of the discovery
The scene of the discovery
Officers gather potential evidence
Maurice Robinson is charged with the killings

By Claire O'Boyle

A lorry driver from Northern Ireland is expected to appear in court today via video link, charged over the deaths of 39 migrants whose bodies were found in a trailer last week.

Maurice 'Mo' Robinson from Laurelvale outside Portadown, Co Armagh, is expected to appear at Chelmsford Magistrates Court today charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering.

The 25-year-old was arrested in the early hours of October 16 after police found the bodies of eight women and 31 men in a refrigerated trailer of a lorry on an industrial estate in Grays, Essex.

In total five people have been arrested in connection with the investigation, the largest of its kind undertaken by Essex Police.

The latest arrest came on Saturday when a man in his 20s was arrested at Dublin Port by the Garda. He is understood to be of interest to the Essex investigation.

Three other people arrested in connection with the investigation, questioned on suspicion of manslaughter and conspiracy to traffic people, have been released on bail, police said yesterday.

Those bailed were a 46-year-old man from Northern Ireland, and a man and woman from Warrington, both aged 38.

Separately, it's been revealed that the Criminal Assets Bureau has been secretly investigating the finances of a cross-border gang suspected of organising the human trafficking operation that led to the deaths of the 39 migrants.

The CAB launched the probe last year after receiving intelligence that the criminal group was amassing significant wealth from various types of smuggling, including people smuggling.

The bureau has been profiling the crime group's significant assets, which are thought to include legitimate businesses and properties, according to informed sources.

Elsewhere, in Vietnam, families waited to find out if their loved ones were among the dead.

The father of one young woman feared to have died said her family tried to talk her out of the journey.

Opening up about his heartache, the father of Pham Thi Tra My (26) said the family had not been able to make contact with her since she sent a heartbreaking text message on Tuesday night saying she could not breathe.

Speaking to Sky News, Pham Van Thin told of his daughter's determination to make the journey.

He said: "We tried to talk her out of it because it would be a very difficult journey for her as a girl. But she said: 'If I don't go, the family would stay in a very difficult situation because of the big debt'. So she took a risk and decided to go, and we had to agree."

He added: "We all have been in shock. I cannot explain our pain and devastating feeling. We were all very devastated and sad."

In a heartbreaking message, the 26-year-old told her parents: "I am really, really sorry, Mum and Dad, my trip to a foreign land has failed. I am dying, I can't breathe. I love you very much Mum and Dad. I am sorry, Mother."

Mr Pham also told CNN that smugglers said the crossing was "a safe route" and that people would go by plane or car.

"If I had known she would go by this route, I would not have let her go," he added.

Some of the suspected victims, including Mr Pham's daughter, are understood to have paid as much as £30,000 to people smugglers in return for taking them from Asia to the UK.

It is now thought up to 25 of the 39 victims were from Vietnam, with many families from the country contacting authorities to report their loved ones missing.

A Catholic priest from Central Vietnam, Father Anthony Dang Huu Nam, said families had come to him saying 100 people were making the journey to Britain for a "new life".

He said: "In this case, there were many people, more than 100, on their way to a better life, but 39 died. A few families have confirmed the deaths of their relatives, who are victims of this tragic journey."

He added: "This is a tragedy the whole country has to bear."

The families of other people feared to be among the dead have also spoken out.

The mother and a sister of 19-year-old Anna Bui Thi Nhung, thought to be the youngest victim of the tragedy, set up an altar in the village of Yen Thanh in north-central Vietnam after a family friend in the UK told them she had died after paying thousands of pounds in the hope of finding work in a nail bar.

Her sister Bui (26) told MailOnline the family wanted her body repatriated so she could be buried in the village she had left in search of a better life.

"We are praying for a miracle that Anna is still alive, but we do not have much hope," she said.

"All we want now is for Anna to come home. We want to be able to bury her and to mourn her. She was just looking for a better life and we are still struggling to understand how this has happened."

Another Vietnamese father, Nguyen Dinh Gia, fears his 20-year-old son, Nguyen Dinh Luong, was among the victims.

The Vietnamese Embassy in London has set up a hotline while the ambassador to the UK, Tran Ngoc An, spoke to Home Secretary Priti Patel on Friday night before meeting investigators from the National Crime Agency and Essex Police.

Officers have so far collected more than 500 exhibits including mobile phones, and each of the victims is believed to have had a bag of some description, clothes and other belongings.

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