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UK truck deaths: Brothers urged to speak to police

Police appeal to 2 Northern Irish men to hand themselves in over probe into 39 deaths

Ahmet Gurhan Kartal   | 01.11.2019
UK truck deaths: Brothers urged to speak to police

LONDON

British police on Friday urged two men to hand themselves in to Northern Ireland security forces over an ongoing investigation into the deaths of 39 people discovered in a truck trailer last week in Essex, England.

Essex police made a direct appeal to brothers Ronan and Christopher Hughes, confirming that they were able to speak to Ronan by phone.

"Today I want to make a direct appeal -- Ronan and Christopher, hand yourselves in to the Police Service of Northern Ireland," said Detective Chief Inspector Daniel Stoten in a televised appeal.

"We need you both to come forward and assist this investigation," he said.

"Although we have already spoken to Ronan Hughes recently by telephone we need to have a conversation with him and his brother in person," Stoten added.

He said talking to the brothers is “crucial to our investigation and the sooner we can make this happen the sooner we can progress and continue with our investigation."

Last hours in refrigerated trailer

A total of 39 people were found dead in a truck last week in Grays, Sussex, in southeastern England, on the banks of the Thames.

The driver of the vehicle was remanded in custody after his first appearance at a British court on Monday.

Maurice Robinson, 25, a British citizen from Northern Ireland, appeared at the opening hearing of the case held in Chelmsford Magistrates Court via video link.

The court decided to keep him in custody until Nov. 25, where he is expected to appear at the Old Bailey.

Robinson was charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration, and money laundering.

He was arrested shortly after the alarming discovery early last Wednesday of 39 bodies in a refrigerated trailer.

British authorities initially said all the victims were Chinese, but later it emerged that at least five are thought to be of Vietnamese origin.

British police detained a total of four people, including Robinson, shortly after the incident but three have since been released on bail.

The truck is registered in Bulgaria, but it has not been in the country since 2017 and is registered with a Northern Irish citizen, according to local authorities.

A Belgian federal prosecutor has also opened an inquiry into the deaths.

The bodies of the victims have been taken to a Chelmsford hospital, where they will remain until the identification process is completed.

In 2000, 58 Chinese migrants were found dead in a truck container in a similar incident in Dover, England. A Dutch truck driver was jailed for manslaughter in 2001.

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