Thursday 21 November 2019

Lorry deaths trailer firm to make statement to police

Police search the lorry in which the 39 dead bodies were found
Police search the lorry in which the 39 dead bodies were found
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

The Irish company that leased the trailer at the centre of the investigation into the 39 Vietnamese migrants found dead in a truck in the UK is to give a statement to police tomorrow about its dealings with the Hughes brothers.

Global Trailer Rentals Ltd (GTR), which has offices in Louth, Dublin and Monaghan, leased the refrigerated container to a second company days before the bodies were discovered.

Yesterday, it was confirmed that the 31 men and eight women were Vietnamese migrants. They were found in the back of the trailer that had been collected in Essex, having been transported on to a ferry in Zeebrugge, Belgium.

Ronan (40) and Christopher Hughes (34), originally from Co Monaghan, are wanted for questioning by police on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking.

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GTR leased the trailer from their premises in Corrygarry, just outside Castleblayney in Co Monaghan. It is understood that Ronan Hughes collected it on October 15.

The trailer was equipped with GPS which allows its route to be tracked. The GPS data suggests that the trailer made two return trips between Britain and Europe in the days leading up to the discovery of the bodies.

A source close to the firm confirmed the company management was expected to meet Essex Police in Northern Ireland tomorrow morning to provide a witness statement, but declined to comment further.

In a recent statement the company directors said they were "shellshocked" and "gutted" that one of their trailers had been used in such a way. The company was "entirely unaware that the trailer was to be used in the manner in which it appears to have been". It contacted Essex Police "immediately upon becoming aware that a trailer on lease from this company had been involved in this incident".

Essex Police announced last Friday that speaking to the Hughes brothers was crucial to their investigation and urged anyone who knows where they are to call them.

In a direct appeal, Detective Chief Inspector Daniel Stoten said: "Ronan and Christopher, hand yourselves in to the PSNI. We need you both to come forward and assist this investigation. Although we have already spoken to Ronan Hughes recently by telephone, we need to have a conversation with him and his brother in person."

Yesterday, the government of Vietnam described the deaths of its citizens as a "serious humanitarian tragedy". Vietnamese media reported that police had arrested two people in connection with the deaths after launching an investigation into suspected human trafficking of workers.

Two Northern Ireland lorry drivers are in custody in connection with the deaths. Extradition proceedings to bring Eamonn Harrison (22) from Ireland to the UK got under way in the High Court in Dublin on Friday. He is facing charges of 39 counts of manslaughter, along with human trafficking and immigration offences, and was remanded in custody.

Maurice Robinson (25), of Craigavon, Northern Ireland, appeared at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court last Monday charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering.

Sunday Independent

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