Essex lorry deaths: Bodies of victims have all been identified

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Lorry container being moved under police escortImage source, PA Media
Image caption,
The bodies were discovered in a lorry trailer in the early hours of 23 October

The 39 Vietnamese people found dead in a refrigerated lorry have all been formally identified, police said.

Essex Police had been working with Vietnamese officials to identify the 31 men and eight women found dead in Grays, Essex, on 23 October.

A series of files have been handed to Essex senior coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray.

The force said it wanted to give families time to take in the news before making the names public.

The victims came from Vietnamese provinces Haiphong, Hai Duong, Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh and Hue, according to police in the country.

Extradition proceedings

Assistant Chief Constable for Essex Tim Smith said identification was "an important step" in the investigation.

The bodies were found on the Waterglade Industrial Estate after the container had travelled to nearby Purfleet from Zeebrugge, in Belgium.

The driver of the lorry, Maurice Robinson, from Northern Ireland, appeared in court last week charged with a number of offences, including 39 counts of manslaughter.

Extradition proceedings have also begun against 22-year-old Eamonn Harrison, who was arrested in Dublin on a European Arrest Warrant.

Police are also seeking two brothers from Northern Ireland, Ronan and Christopher Hughes, who are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and people trafficking.

There have been 11 arrests in two provinces of Vietnam in relation to the deaths.

Image caption,
Pham Thi Tra My and Nguyen Dinh Luong's families are concerned they may be among the victims

Assistant Chief Constable Smith said: "It is only right that we provide an opportunity for family members to take in the news confirming the death of their loved ones before releasing any further information.

"Our thoughts remain with the families and friends of those whose tragic journey ended on our shores."

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
The Reverend Simon Nguyen, who led the service, said the victims lost their lives "seeking freedom, dignity and happiness"

A service was held in memory of the victims at the Church of the Holy Name and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in east London on Saturday evening.

Coroner Mrs Beasley Murray offered her "deepest condolences" to the victims' families.

This article was based on public announcements and appeals made by Essex Police at the relevant time. Christopher Hughes denies any involvement in these offences and Essex Police has since confirmed no further action will be taken against him. Since the publication of this article, his older brother, Ronan Hughes, 41, and Maurice Robinson, 26, both of County Armagh, have pleaded guilty to manslaughter. On 21 December 2020, the Crown Court, sitting at the Old Bailey, found Eamonn Harrison, 24 of Newry, County Down, and Gheorghe Nica, 43 of Basildon, Essex, guilty of manslaughter and Christopher Kennedy, 24, of County Armagh, and Valentin Calota 38, of Birmingham, guilty of conspiring to assist illegal immigration. Alexandru-Ovidiu Hanga, 28, of Tilbury, Essex, and Gazmir Nuzi, 43, of Tottenham, north London, admitted assisting unlawful immigration. All defendants were sentenced in January 2021.