UK police ID all 39 Vietnamese victims found in truck

Candles are laid out as priest of the Vietnamese Catholic Cathedral in east London, Father Simon Thang Duc Nguyen speaks at The Holy Name and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church, London’s Vietnamese church, in east London. Saturday Nov. 2, 2019, during a service and vigil to honor the 39 victims who died in a refrigerated truck container found on Oct. 23. The community is mourning the unidentified victims, who were trying to enter Britain in hopes of finding opportunity. (Yui Mok/PA via AP)

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LONDON (AP) — UK police say they have formally identified the 39 people found dead in a container truck in southeastern England and notified their families in the apparent people-smuggling tragedy.

The authorities said Thursday they’ve been working with Vietnamese police and the coroner to identify the bodies that were found Oct. 23 in the back of a truck in an industrial park in the English town of Grays.

“This is an important step in the investigation and enables us to work with our Vietnamese Police colleagues to support the families of those victims,” Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith. “It is only right that we provide an opportunity for family members to take in the news confirming the death of their loved ones before releasing any further information.”

Police last week said all of the victims were Vietnamese citizens. DNA samples were taken from families in Vietnam who suspected their missing relatives may have been on that truck.

British police have charged 25-year-old Maurice Robinson from Northern Ireland with 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to traffic people. They say he drove the cab of the truck to the English port of Purfleet, where it picked up the container, which had arrived by ferry from the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium.

Three other people have been released on bail pending further investigation in the case.

In Ireland, a 22-year-old man was arrested on a British warrant. Essex Police said they have started extradition proceedings to bring him to the U.K. to face charges of manslaughter in the case.

Several other suspects have been arrested in Vietnam.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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