Truck death migrants all believed to be Vietnamese

British police issue appeal to Hughes brothers to hand themselves in

Police in Essex now believe all 39 migrants found dead in the back of a lorry in the UK last week were from Vietnam.

"We believe the victims are Vietnamese nationals, and we are in contact with the Vietnamese government," said Assistant Ch Const Tim Smith.

“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.”

The victims’ identities cannot be made public until evidence is collected from a number of countries.

The bodies of eight women and 31 men were found in the refrigerated trailer attached to a lorry in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, in the early hours of October 23rd. Police initially believed the people were all Chinese nationals.

A man from Northern Ireland faces multiple counts of manslaughter in relation to the incident. Eamon Harrison (22), from Mayobridge, Co Down, appeared at the High Court in Dublin yesterday to face extradition proceedings on foot of a European arrest warrant.

Authorities in the UK allege he delivered the trailer to Zeebrugge Port in Belgium before its onward journey to England.

Last Saturday truck driver Maurice Robinson (25) from Co Armagh was charged with 39 counts of manslaughter.

Hughes brothers

Meanwhile, appeals have been issued to Ronan Hughes (40) and his brother Christopher (34), from Armagh. British police say the brothers are crucial to their inquiries. They are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking.

According to lead investigator Det Chief Insp Daniel Stoten, officers had spoken by telephone to Ronan Hughes recently but needed to question the brothers in person.

“I want to make a direct appeal,” he said in Belfast yesterday. “Ronan and Christopher, hand yourselves in.”

The Vietnamese embassy in London said it was “deeply saddened” by the findings of Essex police.

“The embassy of Vietnam in London will closely co-ordinate with the relevant authorities of Vietnam and UK to support the families ... to bring their loved ones home.”

Specially trained staff, supported by Vietnamese interpreters, are running a hotline between 9am and midnight, seven days a week, for anyone seeking to make contact.

Police in Vietnam arrested two people yesterday on suspicion of involvement in the deaths. Ha Tinh police also summoned others for questioning as part of an investigation into human trafficking.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times