Essex lorry deaths: Two Northern Ireland brothers wanted on suspicion of manslaughter

Two brothers are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter after 39 people were found dead in a refrigerated trailer in Essex last week.

Ronan Hughes, 40, and Christopher Hughes, 34, both from Armagh in Northern Ireland, are also wanted on suspicion of human trafficking, Essex Police said on Tuesday.

The older brother also goes by the name Rowan, and both have links to the Republic of Ireland as well as Northern Ireland.

Police were called to the Waterglade Retail Park in Grays in the early hours of Wednesday after 39 bodies were discovered in a refrigerated trailer.

Detective Chief Superintendent Stuart Hooper, who is leading the investigation, said: “Finding and speaking to the Hughes brothers is crucial to our investigation.

“At this time we believe they are in Northern Ireland but they also have links to the Irish Republic.

“If you know where they are or have any information about their whereabouts I need you to call my team.”

On Monday lorry driver Maurice “Mo” Robinson, 25, of Craigavon, Northern Ireland, appeared at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration, and money laundering.

He is due to appear at the Old Bailey on 25 November where he will plead guilty or not guilty.

Three other people have been arrested – a 38-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman from Warrington, Cheshire, and a 46-year-old Northern Irish man who was arrested at Stansted Airport on Friday.

They have all been released on bail until November.

Essex Police confirmed another man arrested in Dublin by Irish police over an unconnected matter on Saturday “is a person of interest” in their investigation. The force said it was liaising with the officers as the man is outside England and Wales’ jurisdiction.

Detectives are now trying to identify the 31 men and eight women discovered in the trailer in the largest identification process in Essex Police history.

The lorry was moved to Tilbury Docks after the initial discovery and the bodies have now been moved to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, where post-mortems will be carried out.

Victims will be identified, where possible, with dental records, fingerprints and DNA, followed by other means such as tattoos and scars, supported by jewellery, clothing or property.

Police revealed each victim appeared to have a bag, clothes and other belongings and they so far have more than 500 items to look at.

They are downloading data from their mobile phones to help identify the victims, and to also assist the investigation.

Police initially said the victims were Chinese, but have now said they will not reveal their nationalities until they have been officially identified.

A number of Vietnamese families have came forward to say they fear some of their loved ones are among the dead.

Some of the victims are said to have paid thousands of pounds to traffickers to guarantee their safe passage to the UK, where they could work and send money home.

:: Anybody with information, no matter how small, should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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