Essex lorry deaths: UK police seek two brothers from Armagh

Ronan and Christopher Hughes wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking

Ronan Hughes (right) (40) and his brother Christopher Hughes (34) both from Armagh in Northern Ireland, who Essex Police wish to speak to on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking after the deaths of 39 people whose bodies were found in a container in Grays, Essex, on Wednesday. Photograph: Essex Police/PA

Ronan Hughes (right) (40) and his brother Christopher Hughes (34) both from Armagh in Northern Ireland, who Essex Police wish to speak to on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking after the deaths of 39 people whose bodies were found in a container in Grays, Essex, on Wednesday. Photograph: Essex Police/PA

 

Police investigating the discovery of the bodies of 39 people in a lorry have named two suspects they want to speak to on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking.

Essex Police released pictures of Ronan Hughes (40) and his brother Christopher (34), both from Co Armagh, on Tuesday.

Ronan Hughes, who also goes by the name Rowan, and Christopher Hughes have links to Northern Ireland and the Republic, Essex Police said. Neither man has been charged with any offence.

Detective Chief Supt Stuart Hooper, who is leading the investigation, said: “Finding and speaking to the Hughes brothers is crucial to our investigation.

“At this time we believe they are in Northern Ireland but they also have links to the Irish Republic.

“If you know where they are or have any information about their whereabouts I need you to call my team.

“This is a case where 39 men and women have tragically died and support from the community is going to be vital to help bring those responsible to justice.”

An Garda Síochána said in a statement that it continues to assist Essex Police with the enquiries into the discovery of the bodies of the 31 men and eight woman in the truck in Grays early last Wednesday.

“Anyone with any information is asked to contact An Garda Síochána at the Garda confidential Line 1800 666 111 or Essex Police on 0044 207 158 0010, the anonymous Crimestoppers line on 0044 800 555 111 or online at https://mipp.police.uk,” the statement added.

Charged

Mo Robinson (25), of Craigavon, Co Armagh, 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 in connection with the deaths.

Three other people arrested in connection with the incident — a 38-year-old man, a woman (38) and a man (46) — have all been released on bail until November.

The discovery has sparked a huge international investigation to try and 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.

Families face an agonising wait to find out if their loved ones are among the dead after the force launched “the largest mass fatality victim identification process” in its history.

All of the victims have since been moved from the vehicle to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford where postmortems are to be carried out. It is not yet known when the victims entered the trailer or the exact route it travelled.

Belgian officials said the trailer arrived at Zeebrugge at 2.49pm on Tuesday and left the port the same day en route to Purfleet in Essex.

The trailer arrived at Purfleet at around 12.30am on Wednesday, and was picked up by the cab, which arrived from Northern Ireland via Holyhead in North Wales on Sunday.

The lorry left the port at Purfleet shortly after 1.05am before police were called to the Waterglade Industrial Park on Eastern Avenue in Grays at 1.40am. – PA