LATEST | 39 dead men and women thought to have been trafficked through Russia | Police in Vietnam arrest 11th person | Essex Police and PSNI still hunting NI brothers Christoper and Ronan Hughes

Police in Vietnam believe a man arrested in connection with the discovery of 39 bodies in a refrigerated lorry believe he organised for people to be trafficked into western Europe via Russia.

Friday, 1st November 2019, 10:49 am
Updated Tuesday, 5th November 2019, 10:37 am
The 39 dead men and women discovered inside this refrigerated lorry container could have been trafficked through Russia, say police in Vietnam. (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

The state run Tuoi Tre newspaper reported that the man, who was arrested on Monday, used to live in Russia where he organised for people to be trafficked through Russia, then into Germany before transporting the people into a third country in western Europe.

Vietnamese police have so far arrested 11 people in Vietnam in connection with the investigation.

The 31 men and seven women, all thought to be Vietnamese nationals, were discovered in a refrigerated lorry container in an industrial estate in Grays Essex on October 23.

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Essex Police has drafted in Vietnamese interpreters to assist them with their investigation.

Essex Police Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith said investigators had "identified families for some of the victims".

“Essex Police is continuing to work closely with HM Senior Coroner and the National Crime Agency to progress the investigation and help identify the victims," ACC Smith.

"At this time, we believe the victims are Vietnamese nationals, and we are in contact with the Vietnamese Government.

Ronan Hughes (left) and Christopher Hughes. (Image issued by Essex Police)

"We are in direct contact with a number of families in Vietnam and the UK, and we believe we have identified families for some of the victims whose journey ended in tragedy on our shores.

"The confirmatory evidence needed to formally present cases to HM Senior Coroner for her consideration has not yet been obtained.

"This evidence is being gathered across a number of jurisdictions worldwide.

"As a result, we cannot at this time announce the identity of any of the victims.

The bodies of 31 men and seven women, all believed to from Vietnam, were discovered inside the refrigerated container above. (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

"We will continue to co-operate closely with the Vietnamese Government, and others, to identify the victims and offer our support to all those affected by this tragedy.

"From the outset, our thoughts have been and remain with those who have lost loved ones in this tragic incident."

NI brothers wanted on suspicion of 39 counts of manslaughter

Meanwhile, Detective Chief Inspector, Daniel Stoten, arrived in Northern Ireland on Friday morning where he made a direct appeal to brothers Ronan (40) and Christopher Hughes (34).

This is the lorry and container in which 39 dead bodies were discovered in Grays, Essex. (Photo: Aaron Chown/PA Wire)

DCI Stoten informed journalists at a press conference in Belfast that Essex Police had spoken to Ronan Hughes on the telephone.

The brothers were also encouraged by DCI Stoten to hand themselves in to the PSNI.

The brothers are both from County Armagh and are both wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking.

"Today I want to make a direct appeal. Ronan and Christopher hand yourself in to police. We need you both to come forward and assist us with this investigation," said DCI Stoten.

"I would like to thank all those from communities in Northern Ireland and Ireland, along with those in the road haulage and shipping industries, who have come forward to share information and knowledge with us. You help has been invaluable.

"We know that you are as appalled as the rest of the world following the deaths of 39 people, whose bodies were found in a container which travelled from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Grays in Essex last week."

Police activity at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex, after 39 bodies were found inside a lorry container on the industrial estate. (Photo: Aaron Chown/PA Wire)

DCI Stoten added: "Finding Ronan and Christopher Hughes is crucial to our investigation and the sooner we can make this happen, the sooner we can get on with our enquires and bring those responsible for these tragic deaths to justice.

"The pair are known to have links to Northern Ireland and Ireland, as well as the road haulage and shipping industries and detectives urge anyone who has been in contact with them or has any information about where they are to get in contact with us.

"You may think your information is insignificant but even the smallest detail could be vital.

"Again I would like to express my thanks to all those who have already come forward and provided us with information," he said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 or online to the UK Police Major Incident Public Reporting site.

Information can also be given 100 per cent anonymously to independent charity Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111 or by visiting

Last Thursday, the PSNI acted upon information received and stopped a lorry believed to be connected to Ronan and Christopher Hughes.

The vehicle was subsequently seized.

No further arrests were made.