Police drive the truck container along the road from Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex, Britain, on Oct. 23. A total of 39 bodies were discovered inside a lorry container in the early hours of this morning and pronounced dead at the scene. Photo by Vickie Flores/EPA-EFE
Nov. 2 (UPI) -- The 39 men and women found dead in a truck trailer near London were Vietnamese, police said.
British authorities were working closely with the Vietnamese government on identifying the victims, and had already informed the families of some of the victims, Essex Police Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith said Friday.
"At this time, we believe the victims are Vietnamese nationals," Smith said.
"From the outset, our thoughts have been and remain with those who have lost loved ones in this tragic incident."
On Oct. 24, the bodies of eight female and 31 male migrants were found in a refrigeration container on the industrial estates in Grays.
"Despite having mentally prepared for the worst scenario, but when officially being informed by the British police, we are also very shocked and mournful," Vietnamese Ambassador to the United Kingdom Tran Ngọc An told Vietnam News Agency on Saturday. "Once again, we want to send our condolences to the families of the victims."
Le Thi Thu Hang, a spokeswoman for Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: "This is a serious humanitarian tragedy. We are deeply saddened by the incident and wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to the victims' families.
"We wish they may soon overcome those tremendous pain and losses."
Eamonn Harrison, 22, from Ireland, appeared at Dublin's High Court on Friday, charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, as well as human trafficking and immigration offences. Police say Harrison delivered the trailer to a location in Belgium, where it was picked up and taken to Essex.
Police also believe 40-year-old Ronan Hughes and his brother, Christopher, 34, from Armagh in Northern Ireland, are linked to the smuggling operation.
On Friday, police made a direct appeal to them to turn themselves in.
The truck's driver, Maurice Robinson, appeared in court Monday to face 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering.
"Vietnam strongly condemns human trafficking and considers it a serious crime subject to strict penalties," Hang said. "Vietnam calls upon countries in the region and around the world to step up co-operation in combating human trafficking in order to prevent the recurrence of such tragedy."