Coroner offers condolences to relatives of 39 found dead in Essex lorry

UK news[1]

Inquest adjourned into deaths of Vietnamese nationals including 10 teenagers

The 39 people were found dead in a lorry container on an industrial estate in Grays on 23 October last year.Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA

A coroner has offered his "deep condolences" to relatives of 39 Vietnamese nationals who died in a lorry container in Essex last year. Ten teenagers were among the 39 people who were found dead in the container on an industrial estate in Grays on 23 October last year. The youngest of the dead were two 15-year-old boys.

Five people have been charged in the UK in connection with their deaths while an Irish lorry driver wanted for his alleged role is fighting his extradition from Dublin. The names of the deceased were read aloud during a short hearing at Essex coroner's court on Thursday. A Vietnamese interpreter who was due to assist at the hearing had to go into self-isolation over the coronavirus.

Lincoln Brookes, the area coroner for Essex, said the 39 deaths were "clearly on any view a tragedy on a large scale and a personal tragedy to each of the families". Eight women and 31 men and boys were found dead in the lorry parked on the Waterglade industrial park in Grays in the early hours of 23 October last year. Postmortem and toxicology reports had given the cause of death as asphyxia and hyperthermia - a lack of oxygen and overheating - in an enclosed space, said coroner's officer Nick Hale.

The hearing was adjourned until any criminal proceedings linked with the case were concluded, the coroner said. Essex police said last month they had sent detectives to the south-east Asian country to meet relatives of the deceased as they investigated the alleged human trafficking plot. In Vietnam, police have also charged seven people - including a Vietnamese woman living in China - in connection with the cross-border investigation.

Detectives from Essex police believe a number of Vietnamese people may have come into the UK illegally through Purfleet in October, and are asking them to come forward to help with the investigation.

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