Ten teenagers – two of whom were only 15 years old – were among the 39 migrants found dead inside a refrigerated truck container in southeast England last month, police investigating the human trafficking tragedy revealed Friday.
Essex police released the names of the victims – all from Vietnam – discovered inside a shipping container on Oct. 23, in what is believed to be one of the country’s most deadly incidents involving people smuggling.
"This was an incredibly important process and our team has been working hard to bring answers to worried families who fear their loved one may be among those whose tragic journey ended on our shores," Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith said.
He added: "Our priority has been to identify the victims, to preserve the dignity of those who have died and to support the victims' friends and families."
Floral tributes at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Thurrock, Essex, England Thursday Oct. 24, 2019 the day after 39 bodies were found inside a truck on the industrial estate. British media are reporting that the 39 people found dead in the back of a truck in southeastern England were Chinese citizens. (Stefan Rousseau, PA via AP)
The bodies of 31 men and eight women were discovered at an industrial park in the English town of Grays last month. DNA samples were taken from families in Vietnam who suspected their missing relatives were on the truck.
Police said they believe the victims paid traffickers for their clandestine transit to England.
The truck driver, Maurice Robinson, 25, of Northern Ireland was arrested soon after the bodies were discovered. He was charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering. He is due in court on Nov. 25.
Police escort the truck, that was found to contain a large number of dead bodies, as they move it from an industrial estate in Thurrock, south England, Wednesday Oct. 23, 2019. Police in southeastern England said that 39 people were found dead Wednesday inside a truck container believed to have come from Bulgaria. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Police said Robinson drove the cab of the truck to Purfleet, England, where he picked up the container, which had arrived by ferry from Zeebrugge in Belgium.
A man and woman, both 38, as well as a 48-year-old man were arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and suspicion of conspiracy to traffic people. They were later released on bail, police said.
In Ireland, 22-year-old Eamonn Harrison was arrested on a British warrant. Essex police in Britain said they had started extradition proceedings to bring him to the U.K. to face charges of manslaughter. Several others have been arrested in Vietnam.
Ronan Hughes, 40, and his 34-year-old brother Christopher Hughes are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking, Essex Police said Tuesday. (Essex Police)
Essex police are also looking for brothers Ronan Hughes, 40, and Christopher Hughes, 34, on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking. The brothers are from Armagh in Northern Ireland, but also have connections to the Republic of Ireland.
Some of the names of the victims had emerged in news reports before. Among them was Pham Thi Tra My, a 26-year-old woman whose heartbreaking final text message to her mother vividly brought home the scale of the tragedy. Her family had been unable to contact her since the text arrived saying she was suffocating.
"I'm so sorry mom and dad…. My journey abroad doesn't succeed," she wrote. "Mom, I love you and dad very much. I'm dying because I can't breathe …. Mom, I'm so sorry."
Fox News Greg Norman and the Associated Press contributed to this report.