Three arrested in Vietnam, Ireland over UK truck deaths

Irish man faces manslaughter charges, while 2 in Vietnam suspected to be involved in death of 39 people.

    The investigation is gathering speed, but authorities have thus far been unable to identify the victims [Hannah McKay/Reuters]
    The investigation is gathering speed, but authorities have thus far been unable to identify the victims [Hannah McKay/Reuters]

    Police in Vietnam and Ireland have made three new arrests in the sprawling investigation into the deaths of 39 people found in a refrigerated truck container in southeast England last week.

    Two people suspected of organising a people-smuggling operation in Vietnam were arrested in Ha Tinh province following reports from 10 families there of missing relatives, VTV television reported on Friday. 

    Colonel Nguyen Tien Nam, deputy chief of Ha Tinh provincial police in central Vietnam, was quoted as saying the suspects were directly involved in the case in which people paid smugglers to be taken to the United Kingdom and are now feared to be among the bodies found in the container.

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    Police said the suspects have been organising people smuggling in the area for several years.

    The pair were accused of "organising and brokering for other people to go abroad and stay abroad illegally", according to a Ha Tinh police statement.

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    In Ireland, a 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the October 23 discovery in an industrial park in Essex, east of London.

    Essex police in Britain, who issued the European Arrest Warrant on which he was arrested, started extradition proceedings to bring Eamon Harrison, of Mayobridge in Northern Ireland, to the UK to face charges of manslaughter.

    A spokesman for the Dublin High Court said Harrison appeared in court on Friday. He was ordered to be held until a hearing on November 11.

    Vietnamese victims

    The bodies of the victims were found in a refrigerated trailer on October 23 in Essex after the container arrived from Zeebrugge in Belgium.

    British police said on Friday they now believe all 39 people were from Vietnam. 

    "At this time, we believe the victims are Vietnamese nationals, and we are in contact with the Vietnamese government," Essex police Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith said in a statement

    "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," he added. 

    Vietnamese families fear relatives among Essex lorry deaths

    Police initially said the victims were from China, but the focus shifted to Vietnam when families there reported that they had not heard from loved ones who were in transit at the time.

    DNA samples have been taken from relatives in central Vietnam to help with the complex process of confirming the victims, but so far none of the dead have been officially identified.

    The 25-year-old driver of the truck, Maurice Robinson from Northern Ireland, has been charged with 39 counts of manslaughter.

    British police on Friday asked two other suspects, brothers Ronan and Christopher Hughes, to turn themselves in.

    SOURCE: News agencies