Trial on UK truck tragedy delayed as 63 witnesses absent

The victim, Pham Thi Tra My, was one of 39 Vietnamese found dead in a container truck near London last year. She was a resident of Can Loc District of central Ha Tinh Province.

The case commenced Monday morning in Ha Tinh with an expected seven defendants and 64 witnesses.

The seven defendants are Tran Dinh Truong, 35, of Ha Tinh; Nguyen Thi Thuy Hoa, 36, Vo Van Ky, 58, Vo Van Ho, 68, Le Van Hue, 53, of the neighboring Nghe An Province; Nguyen Quoc Thanh, 26, of southern Can Tho City, and Nguyen Thi Thuy Diem, 30, currently living in China with her Chinese partner.

One of the defendants, a resident of Nghe An, is receiving cancer treatment in hospital and could not attend the trial.

Just one witness showed up to court.

The six defendants present wanted to proceed while the father of the victim, Pham Van Thin, called on the court to make a ruling.

But the prosecutors and the court decided to delay the trial until September 14 as too many witnesses were absent.

According to the verdict, reached in early June last year, Truong contacted Hoa and Diem to build a file for My, who was 26 then, so she could sneak into the U.K. to work.

Following the ring’s guidance, My was taken to China before being sent to France. By then, My had paid the ring £22,000.

Truong kept £1,000 and submitted the rest to Hoa and Diem.

In the next phase, My was brought from France to the U.K. inside a refrigerated truck along with 38 other Vietnamese. She and the rest died along the way lacking oxygen. Their bodies were found when the truck entered Essex, a county in southeast England on October 23 last year.

Investigators later identified eight people, including Truong, Hoa and Diem, for being involved in the ring transporting Vietnamese to work illegally in Europe.

In February, seven of its members were arrested by Ha Tinh police.

The deaths of the 39 Vietnamese had made international headlines. Their identities were revealed by authorities last November. The youngest were two 15-year-old boys and the oldest, a 44-year-old man. Their remains were brought home later that month.

My’s last text message to her mother went viral, horrifying people across the globe.

Part of it, quoted by many news agencies, read: “I’m sorry Mum. My journey abroad hasn’t succeeded. Mum, I love you so much!

I’m dying because I can’t breathe … I’m from Nghen, Can Loc, Ha Tinh, Vietnam … I am sorry, Mum.”

The father and mother of Pham Thi Tra My, one of the 39 Vietnamese found dead in the U.K. truck tragedy, stand outside the court in Ha Tinh Province, August 31, 2020.
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pPhoto by VnExpress/Duc Hung.

The father and mother of Pham Thi Tra My, one of the 39 Vietnamese found dead in the U.K. truck tragedy, stand outside the court in Ha Tinh Province, August 31, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung.

Twenty one of the victims were from Nghe An Province and 10 from Ha Tinh. The rest hailed from Quang Binh and Thua Thien-Hue Provinces in the central region, and Hai Duong Province and Hai Phong City in the north.

In June, a court in Nghe An Province sentenced local woman Nguyen Thi Tham, 25, to 15 months in jail for helping a friend, Nguyen Van Hiep, break into the U.K.

Hiep was among the 39 Vietnamese deaths.

Related to the case, 40-year-old Irish Ronan Hughes pleaded guilty last Friday to the manslaughter of the 39 Vietnamese, after Northern Irish truck driver Maurice Robinson pleaded guilty in April.

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