39 MIGRANTS FOUND DEAD IN BACK OF LORRY 'ALL VIETNAMESE'
The 39 migrants found dead in the back of a lorry in Essex are believed to be Vietnamese nationals, police have said.
Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith of Essex Police said on Friday evening: "At this time, we believe the victims are Vietnamese nationals, and we are in contact with the Vietnamese Government.
"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 confirmatory evidence needed to formally present cases to HM Senior Coroner for her consideration has not yet been obtained.
"This evidence is being gathered across a number of jurisdictions worldwide. As a result, we cannot at this time announce the identity of any of the victims."
Mr Smith said specially trained people, supported by Vietnamese interpreters, were manning its dedicated hotline between 9am to midnight, seven days a week, for people seeking to be in touch about the incident.
The bodies of eight women and 31 men were found in a refrigerated trailer attached to a lorry in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, in the early hours of October 23.
In a statement, the Vietnamese Embassy in London sent its "heartfelt condolences" to the families of the victims.
It said it was "deeply saddened" that Essex Police's initial findings were that the victims may be Vietnamese.
"Specific identities of the victims still need to be identified and confirmed by the relevant authorities of Vietnam and UK," the embassy said.
Its statement added: "The Embassy of Vietnam in London will closely co-ordinate with the relevant authorities of Vietnam and UK to support the families of the Vietnamese victims, if any, to bring their loved ones home."
"We strongly condemn the inhuman activities of the traffickers of illegal immigrants that have caused such a tragedy for the victims and their families.
"Vietnam will work closely with the UK to bring the criminals to justice and find effective measures to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again in the future."
The update from Essex Police comes after the force started extradition proceedings to bring 22-year-old Eamonn Harrison from Ireland to the UK.
Harrison, of Newry in Co Down, Northern Ireland, appeared in Dublin High Court on Friday charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, along with human trafficking and immigration offences, and was remanded in custody.
Detectives have also urged Ronan Hughes, 40, and his brother Christopher, 34, said to have links with the road haulage and shipping industries, to hand themselves in.
The pair, from Armagh in Northern Ireland, are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking.
It is understood Ronan Hughes spoke to police shortly after the driver of the lorry, Mo Robinson, 25, was arrested following the discovery.
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.
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.
In Vietnam, local media reported that police in the Ha Tinh province had arrested two people in connection with the deaths after launching an investigation into suspected human trafficking of workers.
The investigation was prompted when ten families from Nghen Town, Thien Loc, Vinh Loc and Thanh Loc contacted authorities to say they had lost contact with their relatives.
It is still not known how the victims, who police initially believed were Chinese nationals, entered the lorry trailer before it travelled from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Purfleet in Essex.Published: by Radio NewsHub