2 Nov 2019

Essex truck deaths: Second man faces multiple manslaughter charges

10:37 am on 2 November 2019

A second man has been charged with manslaughter over the deaths of 39 people found in a truck near London, British police say, while two people have been detained in Vietnam.

Hoang Lanh, father of 18-year old Hoang Van Tiep who is feared to be among the 39 people found dead in a truck in Britain, looks at his son's photograph on his phone at their house in Dien Thinh commune of Vietnam's Nghe An province on October 28, 2019

Hoang Lanh, father of Hoang Van Tiep, 18, who is feared to be among the 39 people found dead in a truck in Britain, looks at his son's photograph at their house in Dien Thinh commune of Vietnam's Nghe An province. Photo: AFP

Essex police have also appealed to two brothers suspected of being involved to hand themselves in to detectives.

Meanwhile, police in Vietnam said they had detained two people.

Essex police initially said the victims were thought to be Chinese, but on Friday evening they said they were now all believed to Vietnamese.

"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," Essex police assistant chief constable Tim Smith said on Twitter.

The discovery of the bodies in a container on an industrial estate has shone a spotlight on the illicit trade that sends the poor of Asia, Africa and the Middle East on perilous journeys to the West.

The alleged truck driver has already been charged over the deaths, and on Friday detectives said Eamon Harrison, 23, from Northern Ireland, was also accused of 39 counts of manslaughter as well as human trafficking and immigration offences.

Harrison appeared at Dublin's High Court at the start of proceedings to extradite him from Ireland to Britain. He was remanded in custody until 11 November, a court spokesman said.

The bodies were found in the early hours of 23 October after the container arrived in Britain from Zeebrugge in Belgium. The container was picked up at Purfleet dock, east of London, by a truck allegedly driven by Maurice Robinson, 25, from Northern Ireland.

Police work at the industrial park in Essex where 39 bodies were discovered in the back of a lorry on 23 October.

Police working at the scene where the bodies were found in a container in Essex. Photo: AFP

The victims were found not long afterwards. Police have not confirmed the exact cause of their deaths.

Vietnamese police said they had arrested two people and summoned others for questioning on Friday after opening a criminal investigation into suspected human trafficking.

British police also appealed on Friday to Ronan Hughes, 40, and his brother Christopher, 34, from Armagh in Northern Ireland, who they said were crucial to their inquiries. They are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking.

Daniel Stoten, the officer leading the investigation, said police had spoken by telephone to Ronan Hughes recently but needed to question the brothers in person.

"Today I want to make a direct appeal. Ronan and Christopher, hand yourselves in," Detective Chief Inspector Stoten said.

Lawyers for Global Trailer Rentals, the owner of the trailer, have said Ronan Hughes signed the papers to rent the container, giving an address matching the haulier, C Hughes Transport. Christopher Hughes is listed as a director of C Hughes Logistics Ltd, based in Armagh.

- Reuters