Jack Quann
Jack Quann

11.58 1 Nov 2019


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Police in the UK have said they believe all 39 people found dead in a truck container in Essex last week were Vietnamese nationals.

Essex Police Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith said investigators are now in direct contact with a number of families in Vietnam and the UK.

“Essex Police is continuing to work closely with HM Senior Coroner and the National Crime Agency to progress the investigation and help identify the victims.

“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.”

He said police have yet to gather all the “confirmatory evidence” they to announce the identity of any of the victims.

Investigations are continuing “across a number of jurisdictions worldwide.”

“We will continue to co-operate closely with the Vietnamese Government, and others, to identify the victims and offer our support to all those affected by this tragedy,” he said.

From the outset, our thoughts have been and remain with those who have lost loved ones in this tragic incident.

Extradition

It comes as a 23-year-old man faces extradition to the UK to face charges over the discovery of the bodies.

Eamonn Harrison from Mayobridge in County Down appeared before the High Court this morning on foot of a European Arrest Warrant.

Essex Police said he will be charged with 39 offences of manslaughter as well as human trafficking and immigration offences.

He is currently in custody in relation to other charges he is facing in Ireland and is due back in court on November 11th.

Gardaí said they are continuing to assist UK police with their investigation.

Essex Christopher and Ronan Hughes | Image: Essex Police

Meanwhile, a senior detective with Essex Police has made a direct appeal to two brothers wanted in connection with the discovery.

Police said 40-year-old Ronan Hughes and his 34-year-old brother Christopher Hughes are from County Armagh.

They are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking.

Ronan Hughes also goes by the name 'Rowan.'

Speaking at PSNI headquarters in Belfast Essex Police Detective Chief Inspector Daniel Stoten said: "Today I want to make a direct appeal - Ronan and Christopher, hand yourselves in to the Police Service of Northern Ireland".

"We need you both to come forward and assist this investigation."

Mr Stoten added: "Although we have already spoken to Ronan Hughes recently by telephone we need to have a conversation with him and his brother in person.

"Talking to Ronan and Christopher is crucial to our investigation and the sooner we can make this happen the sooner we can progress and continue with our investigation."

Mr Stoten said a lorry believed to be connected to the brothers was stopped and seized by the PSNI on Thursday, but no further arrests were made.

He said the Essex force would continue to work with the Gardaí and PSNI "until Ronan and Christopher Hughes have come forward or are arrested."

Vietnam arrests

Meanwhile two people have been arrested in Vietnam in connection with the case.

Detectives initially believed all the people in the lorry container were Chinese nationals, but Vietnamese families have said they believe their relatives are among the dead.

On Monday, 25-year-old lorry driver Maurice 'Mo' Robinson, of Craigavon in Northern Ireland, appeared in court in England.

He was charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering.

He is due to appear in court again on November 25th.

Three other people arrested - a 38-year-old man, a 38-year-old woman and a 46-year-old man - have all been released on bail.

Additional reporting from Michael Staines and IRN


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