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Essex lorry deaths: Vietnamese families fear relatives among dead

Pham Tra MyImage copyright
Family of Pham Tra My

Image caption

Pham Tri Tra My’s brother said £30,000 had been paid to people smugglers

At least three of the 39 people found dead in a lorry trailer in Essex may have been from Vietnam.

The BBC knows of three Vietnamese people whose relatives are worried they may have been in the trailer.

Pham Thi Tra My, 26, has not been heard from since she sent urgent messages on Tuesday saying she could not breathe.

Two people have been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and the lorry driver remains in custody on suspicion of murder.

Ms Tra My’s brother, Pham Ngoc Tuan, says she had paid £30,000 to people smugglers and her last-known location had been Belgium.

The smugglers are understood to have returned money to families of suspected victims.

  • Essex lorry deaths: What we know

The last message they received from her was at 22:30 BST on Tuesday – two hours before the trailer arrived at the Purfleet terminal from Zeebrugge in Belgium.

Her brother told the BBC: “My sister went missing on 23 October on the way from Vietnam to the UK and we couldn’t contact her. We are concerned she may be in that trailer.

“We are asking the British police to help investigate so that my sister can be returned to the family.”

‘Trip has failed’

Ms Tra My’s family have shared the last text messages she sent to her parents.

They read: “I am really, really sorry, Mum and Dad, my trip to a foreign land has failed,” she wrote.

“I am dying, I can’t breathe. I love you very much Mum and Dad. I am sorry, Mother.”

Ms Tra My’s brother told the BBC her journey to the UK had begun on 3 October. She had told the family not to contact her because “the organisers” did not allow her to receive calls.

Image copyright
PA Media

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The bodies were discovered in the early hours of Wednesday

“She flew to China and stayed there for a couple days, then left for France,” he said.

“She called us when she reached each destination. The first attempt she made to cross the border to the UK was 19 October, but she got caught and turned back. I don’t know for sure from which port.”

The BBC has passed details of Ms Tra My, who is from Nghen town in Can Loc district of Ha Tinh province area of Vietnam, to Essex Police.

The BBC also knows of two other Vietnamese nationals who are missing – a 26-year-old man and a 19-year-old woman.

The brother of the 19-year-old said his sister called him at 07:20 Belgian local time (06:20 BST) on Tuesday, saying she was getting into a container and was turning off her phone to avoid detection.

He has not heard from her since.

He said a people smuggler returned money to the family overnight, and the family of the 26-year-old who she was travelling with also received money back.

A spokesman from the Vietnamese Embassy in the UK confirmed they were in contact with Essex Police in regard to Ms Tra My.

Media captionThirty nine bodies were found in the trailer container

The victims of the trailer were 31 men and eight women and Essex Police initially said they were all believed to be Chinese.

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They were found at an industrial estate in Grays at 01:40 BST on Wednesday.

GPS data shows the refrigerated container trailer crossed back and forth between the UK and Europe in the days before it was found.

It was leased from the company Global Trailer Rentals on 15 October. The company said it was “entirely unaware that the trailer was to be used in the manner in which it appears to have been”.

Essex Police said the tractor unit (the front part of the lorry) had entered the UK via Holyhead – an Irish Sea port in Wales – on Sunday 20 October, having travelled over from Dublin.

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Facebook

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The lorry driver has been named locally as Mo Robinson, from County Armagh

Police believe the tractor unit collected the trailer in Purfleet on the River Thames and left the port shortly after 01:05 on Thursday. Police were called to the industrial park where the bodies were discovered about half an hour later.

Temperatures in refrigerated units can be as low as -25C (-13F). The lorry now is at a secure site in Essex.

Detectives are still questioning the lorry driver, Mo Robinson, of County Armagh in Northern Ireland, on suspicion of murder. He was arrested on Wednesday.

Two other people were also earlier arrested on suspicion of manslaughter.

The man and woman, both 38, from Warrington, Cheshire, were earlier also held on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic.

Police officers were seen at the couple’s home address in Warrington, with a police van and two squad cars parked outside.

  1. Sources say the GPS data shows it left Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland on 15 October before crossing over to Northern Ireland and then returning south to Dublin
  2. From Dublin, it crossed over to Holyhead in Wales overnight on 16 October
  3. That evening, it travelled to continental Europe from Dover to Calais in France
  4. Between 17 and 22 October, it moved between various cities in Belgium and France, including Dunkirk, Bruges and Lille
  5. On 22 October, it made its final crossing from Zeebrugge to Purfleet

Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

The container made its final crossing from Zeebrugge to Purfleet on Tuesday

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