Wednesday 13 November 2019

Gardai assisting Essex police hunt for two brothers from Co Armagh as part of probe into 39 container deaths

Undated handout photo issued by Essex Police of Ronan Hughes (right), 40 and his brother Christopher Hughes, 34, both from Co Armagh in Northern Ireland. Photo credit: Essex Police/PA Wire
Undated handout photo issued by Essex Police of Ronan Hughes (right), 40 and his brother Christopher Hughes, 34, both from Co Armagh in Northern Ireland. Photo credit: Essex Police/PA Wire
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Gardai are involved in a cross border manhunt for the two brothers who are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking.

This is because the brothers have very close business and personal links to Co Monaghan.

The container lorry where 39 people were found dead
The container lorry where 39 people were found dead

Essex Police released pictures of Ronan Hughes, 40, and his brother Christopher, 34, both from from Co Armagh in Northern Ireland, on Tuesday.

According to the force, Ronan Hughes, who also goes by the name Rowan, and Christopher Hughes have links to both the Republic and Northern Ireland.

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.

"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."

The court sketch of Maurice ‘Mo’ Robinson. Photo: Elizabeth Cook/PA Wire
The court sketch of Maurice ‘Mo’ Robinson. Photo: Elizabeth Cook/PA Wire

The bodies of eight women and 31 men were found in a refrigerated trailer attached to a lorry in an industrial park in Grays in the early hours of last Wednesday.

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

Three other people arrested in connection with the incident - a 38-year-old man, a 38-year-old woman, and a 46-year-old man - have all been released on bail until November.

The discovery has sparked a huge international investigation to try and identify the victims.

Essex Police initially believed the 39 were all Chinese nationals, but Vietnamese men and women are feared to be among the dead.

Families face an agonising wait to find out if their loved ones are among the dead after the force launched "the largest mass fatality victim identification process" in the force's history.

Driver: Maurice Robinson has been charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering
Driver: Maurice Robinson has been charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering

All of the victims have since been moved from the vehicle to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford for post-mortem examinations to be carried out.

It is not yet known when the victims entered the trailer, where temperatures can be as low as minus 25C if the fridge is activated, or the exact route it travelled.

Belgian officials said the trailer arrived at Zeebrugge at 2.49pm on Tuesday and left the port the same day en route to Purfleet in Essex.

The trailer arrived at Purfleet at around 12.30am on Wednesday, and was picked up by the cab, known as the tractor, which arrived from Northern Ireland via Holyhead in North Wales on Sunday.

The lorry left the port at Purfleet shortly after 1.05am before police were called to the Waterglade Industrial Park on Eastern Avenue in Grays at 1.40am.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact An Garda Síochána at the Garda confidential Line 1800 666 111 or Essex Police on 0044 207 158 0010, the anonymous Crimestoppers line on 0044 800 555 111 or online at https://mipp.police.uk

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