UK truck deaths: Families in Vietnam search for missing children

Ms Anna Tran Thi Giao with a photo of her grandson, Nguyen Dinh Luong. It is believed that the Vietnamese man was among the 39 found dead in a container truck last week in Britain.
Ms Anna Tran Thi Giao with a photo of her grandson, Nguyen Dinh Luong. It is believed that the Vietnamese man was among the 39 found dead in a container truck last week in Britain.PHOTO: REUTERS

Those missing could be among 39 found dead last week in truck

HANOI • At least 24 Vietnamese families are searching for missing children amid uncertainty over the identity of 39 suspected migrants whose bodies were discovered in a container truck in Britain last week.

Local newspaper VnExpress on Sunday reported that 24 families are looking for missing children, with 10 missing in Ha Tinh and 14 missing in Nghe An, both central Vietnamese provinces. Nghe An is one of Vietnam's poorest areas and a hot spot for human trafficking.

Mr Nguyen Dinh Gia, 57, fears that his 20-year-old son, Mr Nguyen Dinh Luong, who had been trying to get to Britain after first making it to France, is among the lorry victims.

Mr Nguyen told DPA last week that he had little hope his son survived the journey.

"Now I do not have any hope about his life. I am sure he is dead, but I am trying to keep 1 per cent of hope that he is still alive."

The bodies were found last Wednesday in a container truck in Grays, about 32km east of central London, and British police are still trying to establish the identity of the victims. British police had initially thought the bodies were those of Chinese nationals, but it now seems likely that the majority were Vietnamese.

Chinese and Vietnamese officials are working closely with British police, the countries' embassies said.

Police in Vietnam on Sunday took hair and blood samples to get DNA from relatives of those feared to be among the lorry victims.

 
 
 

"Police from the Ministry of Public Security came to get DNA samples, our hair and blood," Mr Nguyen told Reuters in Can Loc, Ha Tinh province, where sympathisers had gathered at his simple house amid lush rice fields to console the family.

"I advised him not to go because I told him that even though our family had always had nothing and our children were always in hardship, we brought them up just fine."

The father of Ms Pham Thi Tra My, who sent a last text message to her family in the early hours of Wednesday, said police had also been to collect samples of blood and hair.

Last Friday, a rights activist revealed that the 26-year-old had sent a message to her mother in Vietnam saying she was "dying because I can't breathe".

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc last Saturday ordered an investigation into overseas trafficking.

The hashtag #RIP39 is trending on Facebook in Vietnam, where the social network is widely used.

Hundreds of Vietnamese are trafficked to Britain each year, according to the charity Ecpat.

Police in Britain said on Saturday that they had charged one man, 25-year-old Maurice Robinson of Craigavon in Northern Ireland, with 39 counts of manslaughter and other offences, including conspiracy to traffic people. On Sunday, police said three people arrested in connection with the investigation had been released on bail. All three had been questioned on suspicion of manslaughter and conspiracy to traffic people.

 
 
 

Britain has sent dossiers to Vietnam, seeking its assistance in identifying four of the 39 people, the Vietnam government said yesterday.

British police have said very few of the victims were carrying official identification papers, and that they hope to identify the dead through fingerprints, dental records and DNA, as well as photos from friends and relatives.

Over the weekend, churches in the predominantly Catholic area of northern Vietnam from which the suspected victims came held candle-lit prayers.

REUTERS, DPA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2019, with the headline 'Families in Vietnam search for missing children '. Print Edition | Subscribe