Three bailed as UK truck deaths probe focuses on Vietnam

Essex Police on Sunday released on bail[1] three people arrested in connection with the discovery of 39 bodies in a truck trailer, as investigations into one of the UK's worst human trafficking tragedies focus on the likelihood most of the dead were from Vietnam[2]. The release of those arrested on Friday -- a 38-year-old man and 38-year-old woman both detained in Warrington and a 46-year-old man from Northern Ireland arrested at Stansted airport -- came a day after the force laid the first charges[3] in the investigation. Maurice Robinson, 25, from Craigavon, who was driving the truck hauling the trailer, was charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering. 

Essex Police made efforts at the weekend to gain the confidence of the Vietnamese community both in the UK and people in Vietnam as evidence mounted that the 31 men and eight women were from a concentrated area in the centre of the country. VNExpress, a state-owned news outlet, on Saturday reported[4] that 12 more families from Ha Tinh and Nghe An provinces had reported fears that relatives were among the dead. On Friday, the family of Pham Thi Tra My, a 26-year-old from Ha Tinh, released text messages she had apparently sent from inside the trailer reporting that she could not breathe.

The Sun on Sunday, a UK tabloid, reported that as many as 25 of the dead may have come from the village of Yen Thanh in Nghe An. On Sunday, Essex Police declined to comment on the reports and there was no immediate response from Vietnam's embassy in London. There are well-established networks for bringing would-be migrants from Vietnam to work in the UK in a variety of roles, particularly in nail bars and illegal cannabis factories. Pham Thi Tra My's family told reporters they had paid smugglers GBP30,000 and that she was planning to work in a nail bar.

The people released on Sunday, who have not been officially identified, had all been questioned on suspicion of manslaughter and conspiracy to traffic people. Mr Robinson will make his first court appearance on Monday at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court. Police in Dublin on Saturday arrested on an outstanding warrant in the Irish Republic a man from Northern Ireland who they indicated was also of interest to the Essex investigation.

They declined to say on Sunday whether they were still questioning him.

The investigation into one of the UK's biggest ever mass deaths started at 1.40am on Wednesday when the ambulance service called police about the discovery of bodies in a refrigerated trailer at an industrial park near Grays, Essex.

The trailer was picked up a short time before at the nearby port of Purfleet by a tractor unit that police have said entered the UK via a ferry to Holyhead, north Wales, from Dublin.

References

  1. ^ released on bail (www.essex.police.uk)
  2. ^ from Vietnam (www.ft.com)
  3. ^ laid the first charges (www.ft.com)
  4. ^ reported (e.vnexpress.net)

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