Essex lorry deaths: Three bailed as work to identify 39 victims goes on

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Pham Thi Tra My and Nguyen Dinh Luong
The families of Pham Thi Tra My and Nguyen Dinh Luong are concerned they may be among the victims

Three people arrested in connection with the deaths of 39 people found dead inside a lorry in Essex have been released on bail.

The suspects, two men and a woman, had been held on suspicion of manslaughter and conspiracy to traffic people after the discovery in Grays last Wednesday.

Lorry driver Maurice Robinson, 25, is due to appear in court on Monday.

Meanwhile, families in Vietnam face an anxious wait to find out if their loved ones were among the dead.

Those bailed were a 46-year-old man from Northern Ireland, who was arrested at Stansted Airport on Friday, and Joanna and Thomas Maher, both 38, from Warrington, Cheshire.

Mr Robinson, of Laurel Drive, Northern Ireland, has been charged with 39 counts of manslaughter as well as people trafficking, immigration and money laundering offences.

He is due before Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

In total, five people have been arrested in connection with the investigation into the deaths.

A man in his 20s, arrested by Irish police in Dublin, was said to be “of interest” to the Essex Police investigation.

In Vietnam, relatives of Bui Thi Nhung, 19, said they feared she may be among the dead.

The teenager is thought to be the youngest of those who died.

Bui Thu Nhung
Image captionBui Thi Nhung is from Nghe An province

Since the bodies were discovered on Wednesday, several families in Vietnam have expressed concerns over missing relatives.

Among them are Pham Thi Tra My, 26, who last messaged her family late on Tuesday, and two men – Nguyen Dinh Luong, 20, and Nguyen Dinh Tu.

A friend of Tran Thi Tho, 21, fears she may be among the victims. The friend, who lives in Glasgow, did not want to be identified but told the BBC he was due to meet up with her when she arrived in the UK.

Police in Vietnam are taking DNA samples from family members of those reported missing in a bid to identify the victims, Reuters has reported.

In Ha Tinh in Vietnam, police have opened a special criminal case to investigate claims they have received in relation to the lorry death, the BBC has learnt.

Included in the investigation are allegations of human trafficking in Ha Tinh province.

Media captionNguyen Dinh Sat fears his son was among the 39 found dead inside a refrigerated lorry

A representative of VietHome – a website for Vietnamese people in the UK – said it had passed on the pictures of almost 20 people who have been reported missing to detectives.

Police said they were investigating a “wider conspiracy” after reports the lorry may have been part of a convoy of three carrying about 100 people.

Worshippers with candles
Image captionCatholic worshippers said prayers for the 39 people at a Mass in Nghe An province, Vietnam

The victims – who police initially believed to be Chinese nationals – were inside a lorry trailer which came to the UK via the Belgian port of Zeebrugge.

Officers said post-mortem examinations were being carried out.

The victims had been carrying “very few” identity documents, leaving officers to rely on fingerprints, DNA and distinguishing features such as tattoos or scars, said police.

Lorry container being moved under police escort
Image captionThe bodies were discovered in the early hours of Wednesday

Meanwhile, concerns have been raised over the UK’s ability to work with European officials to combat people trafficking after Brexit.

Labour’s Yvette Cooper and exiled Conservative Dominic Grieve voiced the fears over co-operation with Europol as plans for the transition period after Brexit and beyond have yet to be agreed.

However, the Home Office said the UK would continue to work with EU law enforcement agencies with or without a Brexit deal.

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