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Essex lorry deaths: 8 arrested in Vietnam after 39 migrants found dead in lorry near Dartford Crossing

Eight more people have been arrested in Vietnam after the bodies of 39 migrants were found in the back of a lorry.

Detectives are currently talking to a number of families following the grim discovery in Essex last month.

Police at the scene of the grim discovery in Thurrock, Essex Picture: UKNIP (19984676)
Police at the scene of the grim discovery in Thurrock, Essex Picture: UKNIP (19984676)

Two Northern Irish men have been charged after the bodies were found near the Dartford Crossing on Wednesday, October 23.

Maurice 'Mo' Robinson, 25, from Craigavon was charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, money laundering and conspiracy to traffic people and assist unlawful immigration.

He drove the lorry into Essex and is next due to appear at the Old Bailey on Monday, November 25

Eamon Harrison, 22, from Mayobridge, County Down, appeared in court on Friday also charged with 39 counts of manslaughter.

He is believed to have delivered the lorry container to Zeebrugge, Belgium, and is accused of conspiracy to commit human trafficking and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Police at the scene of the grim discovery in Thurrock, Essex Picture: UKNIP (19984662)
Police at the scene of the grim discovery in Thurrock, Essex Picture: UKNIP (19984662)

The incident has lead to some MPs from the Foreign Affairs Committee calling on the Government to rethink its approach to legal immigration.

Tonbridge and Malling's Tom Tugendhat, who is chairman of the committee, said: “The case of 39 people found dead in a lorry in Essex shocked us all. Hundreds of families across the world are losing loved ones who felt driven to take the fatal gamble to entrust their lives to smugglers.

“This case should serve as a wake-up call to the Foreign Office and to Government. The UK has been relatively isolated from the different migrant crises in recent years – but it’s wrong to assume that we are protected from their impact.

"Right now, the US withdrawal from Syria and the Turkish military operation in to territory formerly held by Kurdish fighters could see an increase in migration flows.

“As the committee has said repeatedly, the UK is leaving the EU, not leaving Europe. The UK has a proud history of helping those fleeing conflict and persecution and cooperating with others to protect human rights."

MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, thinks the Government should rethink its approach to illegal immigration.
MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, thinks the Government should rethink its approach to illegal immigration.

The extra arrests, reported by the Vietnam News Agency, comes days after Essex Police confirmed they had spoken to one of two suspects, who are on the run, over the phone.

Ronan Hughes, 40, and his brother Christopher, 34, both from Armagh in Northern Ireland, are being hunted by police on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking and are thought to have links to the Irish Republic.

During a press conference on Friday Detective chief inspector Daniel Stoten said: "Today I want to make a direct appeal. Ronan and Christopher hand yourself in to police. We need you both to come forward and assist us with this investigation.

"I would like to thank all those from communities in Northern Ireland and Ireland, along with those in the road haulage and shipping industries, who have come forward to share information and knowledge with us. Your help has been invaluable.

"We know that you are as appalled as the rest of the world following the deaths of 39 people, whose bodies were found in a container which travelled from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Grays in Essex.

Police are looking for Ronan Hughes, left, and his brother Christoper Hughes, right. Picture: Essex Police (20620247)
Police are looking for Ronan Hughes, left, and his brother Christoper Hughes, right. Picture: Essex Police (20620247)

"Finding Ronan and Christopher Hughes is crucial to our investigation and the sooner we can make this happen, the sooner we can get on with our inquires and bring those responsible for these tragic deaths to justice.

"You may think your information is insignificant but even the smallest detail could be vital.

"Again I would like to express my thanks to all those who have already come forward and provided us with information."

Yesterday the police service of Northern Ireland, acting on information, stopped a lorry believed to be connected to the Hughes' brother, the vehicle was subsequently seized and no further arrests were made.

MPs speak in Parliament about the discovery of the 39 migrants

This evening assistant chief constable Tim Smith said: "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.

"The confirmatory evidence needed to formally present cases to HM Senior Coroner for her consideration has not yet been obtained.

Police at the scene of the grim discovery in Thurrock, Essex Picture: UKNIP (20138462)
Police at the scene of the grim discovery in Thurrock, Essex Picture: UKNIP (20138462)

"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."

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 until November.

Police confirmed last weekend all 39 victims, who are now all thought to be from Vietnam, found in the lorry have now been moved from Tilbury Docks to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford.

They said each of the 39 victims appears to have been carrying a bag that contained clothes, and other belongings.

Police at the scene of the grim discovery in Thurrock, Essex Picture: UKNIP (19984664)
Police at the scene of the grim discovery in Thurrock, Essex Picture: UKNIP (19984664)

They say more than 500 items of importance, including mobile phones, have been recovered from lorry.

It was initially thought the migrants were Chinese which meant the horrific case echoed even more with the death of 58 Chinese migrants, found in the back of a lorry at Dover in 2000.

A group of MPs has called on the Government to rethink its approach to illegal immigration and labelled these events as "a wake up call".

If you have any information about the case contact police on101 or online at: https://mipp.police.uk.

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