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Brother wanted over 39 truck deaths admired as 'hands-on' businessman

 

Handout photo issued by Essex Police of Ronan Hughes as the force have revealed that they have spoken by telephone to the fugitive who they want to question over the deaths of 39 people found in the back of a lorry in Essex
Handout photo issued by Essex Police of Ronan Hughes as the force have revealed that they have spoken by telephone to the fugitive who they want to question over the deaths of 39 people found in the back of a lorry in Essex

By Maeve Sheehan

ONE of the Co Monaghan brothers wanted by English police for questioning about the deaths of 39 Vietnamese people in a refrigerated trailer was praised as a "hands on" owner of a truck company involved in every aspect of his business.

Christopher Hughes and his brother Ronan were named by Essex police last month as people they want to speak to about the suspected manslaughter and human trafficking of 31 men and eight women who were smuggled into an Essex port.

The brothers have been holed up in Co Monaghan since the fatal human trafficking operation was uncovered by police and were "at home" when the Criminal Assets Bureau raided their properties and businesses last Thursday.

A brand-new BMW bought for €108,000 a few months ago is among the luxury cars seized by CAB, along with several trailers, including two trucks seized from Dublin Port last Tuesday. One of the vehicles is registered in Northern Ireland and the other is registered in Bulgaria, although it is Irish-owned. CAB has seized the trucks and trailers on suspicion that they represent the proceeds of crime.

In an interview with a trucker magazine three years ago where he was praised, Chris Hughes gave a revealing glimpse into his life as a trucker, talking enthusiastically about building up his fleet of trucks, and his travels to various festivals to show off his vehicles.

He disclosed the vehicles he and brother, Ronan, who previously had an address in Newtownbutler, Co Fermanagh, intended to display at an upcoming Full of the Pipe truck festival in Cavan.

"We'll probably stay for the two days and make a weekend out of it," he said. "It's good to take a bit of time out. It breaks things up and everybody gets to see the money that's spent on the lorries and the commitment that goes into it.

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"I'd also take a good look at the other lorries over there and see if I can get any ideas on how to improve my own.

"You're constantly trying to think of something that you could do to make them look better." Christopher and Ronan Hughes have been under investigation by the CAB since last year on suspicion of smuggling alcohol, cigarettes and drugs, as well as suspected people trafficking. Gardai have been monitoring the suspected activities of the Hughes brothers for some time.

Their suspected involvement in people smuggling was exposed last month, when police linked the brothers to the cab and the trailer in which the 39 people were found.

Ronan Hughes leased the refrigerated trailer from another company, Global Trailer Rentals Ltd (GTR). In a recent statement the company directors said they were "shellshocked" and "gutted" that one of their trailers had been used in such a way.

The vehicles seized by CAB included a Mitsubishi Jeep registered to Mo Robinson - the Co Armagh truck driver already charged with 39 counts of manslaughter in Essex.

Mr Robinson is accused of driving the cab of the truck to the English port of Purfleet, where it collected the trailer unit, which had arrived by ferry from Zeebrugge in Belgium.

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