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Northern Irish brothers wanted in connection with 39 deaths in truck

By Sommer Brokaw
Northern Irish brothers wanted in connection with 39 deaths in truck
Northern Irish brothers, Christopher Hughes, 34, and Ronan Hughes, 40, are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking. Photo courtesy of Essex Police. 

Oct. 29 (UPI) -- British police said Tuesday two Northern Irish brothers are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking in the investigation of 39 deaths.

Police identified the brothers as Ronan Hughes, 40, and Christopher Hughes, 34, both from Armagh, Northern Ireland, according to a Tuesday update.

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Ronan also goes by the name Rowan, the update said.

"Finding and speaking to the Hughes brothers is crucial to our investigation," Detective Chief Superintendent Stuart Hooper said. "At this time we believe they are in Northern Ireland but they also have links to the Irish Republic."

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"This is a case where 39 men and women have tragically died and support from the community is going to be vital to help bring those responsible to justice," Hooper added.

On Monday, the truck driver, Maurice "Mo" Robinson, 25, appeared via video link at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court after British police said he was charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering.

He is due to appear in The Old Baily criminal court in London on Nov. 25.

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Three other suspects arrested Friday were released on bail Sunday, including Thomas Maher and his wife, Joanna Maher, both 38, and a 46-year-old man from Northern Ireland. The couple were released on bail until Nov. 11 and the Northern Irish man was released on bail until Nov. 13.

Essex police originally thought all 39 dead bodies found in the truck container in Britain on Wednesday belonged to Chinese nationals, but have since said they "remain open-minded" in regard to the nationalities of the victims.

"This is the largest mass fatality victim identification process in the history of Essex Police," the department noted.

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Essex Police said the trailer container, in which the dead bodies of 31 men and eight women were found Wednesday, arrived in Britain from a Belgium port city and the journey started in Northern Ireland.

Authorities are trying to determine if the container was part of a convoy of at least three trucks carrying migrants from Vietnam to Britain.

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