Pham Thi Tra My, whose family fears she may have died in the Essex lorry deaths. Picture: Family of Pham Tra My
Pham Thi Tra My, whose family fears she may have died in the Essex lorry deaths. Picture: Family of Pham Tra My

Death truck victim had just been deported

Police have painstakingly taken DNA samples from people in central Vietnam who believe their family members may have been among the 39 victims found dead in a truck container in an industrial estate in Grays, Essex.

Up to 24 Vietnamese families have reported members missing following news of the incident, with fears they could be among the eight women and 31 men found dead.

Vietnam's Deputy Minister Bui Thanh Son said UK police have sent documents on four of the 39 victims to local authorities for confirmation.

"Although the victims have not been identified, the British side has also submitted the first four victims' records to Vietnam," he said.

 

Pham Thi Tra My, whose family fears she may have died in the Essex lorry deaths. Picture: Family of Pham Tra My
Pham Thi Tra My, whose family fears she may have died in the Essex lorry deaths. Picture: Family of Pham Tra My

 

Identifying the victims will be a slow and painstaking process with dental records, fingerprints and DNA the primary methods. Secondary features such as tattoos, scars and clothing are also taken into account.

"Every victim a forensic scene, [sic]" Essex police said. "Officers are meticulously processing all the property that was with the victims and in the lorry and every item has an individual record made of it.

"There are 39 victims and each appears to have a bag of some description, clothes, and other belongings.

"So far we have over 500 exhibits, including mobile phones which have to be downloaded and the interrogation of mobile phones will be important for identifying the victims but also assisting the wider investigation - this needs to be done in forensic way so it will pass the evidential process for court later."

It comes as reporting revealed a major new revalation about a woman thought to be among the dead.

The body of Pham Thi Tra My, 26, is believed to have been among the stowaways after messaging "I can't breathe. Mum, I'm very sorry."

Her brother told Vietnamese media it was the second time the young woman had been trafficked to Britain after they paid smugglers $56,000, The Sun reports.

Pham's brother said: "She was arrested a few days ago [in Britain] and they returned her to France. Now we heard she might have died."

Her dad added: "We tried to talk her out of it because it would be a very difficult journey - but she said: 'If I don't go, the family would stay in a difficult situation because of the debt'.

"So she took a risk and we had to agree. We are in shock. I cannot explain our pain. We were all devastated. If I had known she would go by this route, I would not have let her go."

They said they had believed they had paid the vast amounts of money for her to travel the "VIP route" which would see her travel in a car.

 

Maurice Robinson, 25, appeared in court on Monday via videolink. Picture: Elizabeth Cook/PA via AP.
Maurice Robinson, 25, appeared in court on Monday via videolink. Picture: Elizabeth Cook/PA via AP.

On Monday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, signed a condolence book in Grays, Essex, vowing to bring the perpetrators to justice.

"We mourn those who lost their lives," Johnson wrote. "Our thoughts are with their families far away. In condemning the callousness of those responsible for this crime, we in the government of the United Kingdom resolve to do everything in our power to bring the perpetrators to justice."

He said the tragedy had shocked Britain and the world, praising the victims as innocent people seeking better lives.

The truck driver, Maurice Robinson, appeared in Chelmsford Magistrates Court on Monday via video link from prison, but wasn't required to plead innocent or guilty.

The 25-year-old from Northern Ireland will be kept in custody until he appears at the Old Bailey court on November 25, where he will be expected to enter a plea.

He is charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, two counts of human trafficking and two counts of money laundering.

Nguyen Dinh Tinh, 40, brother of Nguyen Dinh Tu, who is believed to be one of 39 victims found dead in a refrigerated truck in Britain rests at home as he worries for his brother. Picture: Linh Pham/Getty Images.
Nguyen Dinh Tinh, 40, brother of Nguyen Dinh Tu, who is believed to be one of 39 victims found dead in a refrigerated truck in Britain rests at home as he worries for his brother. Picture: Linh Pham/Getty Images.

 

 

 

Family members and neighbours of Pham Thi Tra My pray at her house with monks in Vietnam. Picture: Linh Pham/Getty Images.
Family members and neighbours of Pham Thi Tra My pray at her house with monks in Vietnam. Picture: Linh Pham/Getty Images.

 

'WE THINK IT'S TRUE'

In Vietnam, family and friends of those believed missing have gathered at homes to pray for their loved ones. Thirteen of those reported missing come from Nghe An - one of Vietnam's poorest areas and a hotspot for human trafficking.

At their home in the district's Tho Thanh village, the mother and a brother of Vo Ngoc Nam were awaiting news from the UK after not hearing from him for a week.

"We suspect that he was in the container in which people died. We don't know what's going on, but we think it's true," Nam's older brother Vo Ngoc Chuyen said.

Nguyen Dinh Gia, 57, who lives in the area and fears his son is among the lorry victims said he had little hope his son survived.

"Now I do not have any hope about his life. I am sure he is dead, but I am trying to keep 1 per cent of hope that he is still alive," Gia said.

British police initially said all the bodies in the truck appeared to be Chinese nationals, however it now seems the majority were Vietnamese.

 

 

Prayers at the home of Pham Thi Tra My, whose brother said she had previously been removed from the UK. Picture: Linh Pham/Getty Images.
Prayers at the home of Pham Thi Tra My, whose brother said she had previously been removed from the UK. Picture: Linh Pham/Getty Images.

 

Hundreds of Vietnamese nationals are trafficked to Britain each year, according to the charity Ecpat. Many work illegally in nail bars or cannabis farms, heavily indebted and vulnerable to exploitation.



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