Vietnamese family fears missing daughter may be among Essex lorry victims

Joe Gamp
Contributor, Yahoo News UK

The family of a missing Vietnamese girl fear their daughter may have been among dozens found dead in a lorry container in Essex.

On Wednesday, a lorry was discovered with the bodies of 39 people at an industrial estate near the port of Purfleet.

Panicked texts from a Vietnamese woman has caused her parents to believe she may have been one of the victims of the tragedy.

However, Essex Police said they would not comment further on the nationalities of the deceased at the current stage of the investigation.


On Friday afternoon, the BBC reported that at least six Vietnamese nationals are feared to be among the dead, as their families have not heard from then since Tuesday evening.

Hoa Ngheim, a coordinator at a charity called Human Rights Space, released a photo of 26-year-old Vietnamese national Pham Thin Tra My on Twitter on behalf of her family appealing for help to track her down.

A screenshot posted by Ms Ngheim reads: "I'm sorry mom. My path to abroad doesn't succeed.

“Mom, I love you so much! I'm dying bcoz I can't breath...I'm from Nghen, Can Loc, Ha Tinh, Vietnam... I am sorry, Mom".

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)

Ms Nghiem added: ”The text was sent 4:30 Oct23rd. Pham Thi Tra My went to China and planned to go to England via France, a contact with her family told me. Her family is looking for help to identify their daughter among 39 found people. Pls help to find connection.”

Nghiem said: “The girl’s family got in touch with the lawyer – who has dealt with cases like this before – asking if she could help. They are desperate for any information about their daughter.

“They just want any updates and have been posting on forums and speaking to the lawyer about getting help.”

Relatives of the family reportedly paid £30,000 for her to be smuggled to Britain.

Mimi Vu, an expert on the human trafficking of Vietnamese citizens to the UK and Europe, said the texts appeared to be genuine.

Police are seen at the scene where bodies were discovered in a lorry container, in Grays, Essex, Britain October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

She told the Guardian: “She writes her name and where she is from, which is very important, to tell people where she should be buried. It is important for the body to be returned to the place of birth.”

Police confirmed on Friday that all the victims were Chinese. However, it is possible that non-Chinese nationals could have been given fake passports as part of the smuggling process.

According to the BBC, families of two more Vietnamese nationals have said they are waiting to hear for news on their loved ones.

The Vietnamese Embassy in London confirmed it has contacted police in regard to the missing woman. A spokesman said they had been contacted by a family in Vietnam which claimed their daughter had been missing “since the lorry was found”.

Yahoo News UK has contacted Ms Nghiem, the Vietnamese Embassy in London and Essex Police for further information.

Three more arrested

In other developments on Friday, three more people have been arrested in connection with the tragedy.

The man and woman, both aged 38 and from Warrington, have been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and conspiracy to traffic people, police said.

A fourth man, aged 48 from Northern Ireland, was also arrested at Stansted Airport on suspicion of trafficking.

A statement from Essex Police said: "We have carried out warrants in Cheshire as part of the investigation into 39 bodies being discovered in a lorry trailer in Grays .

Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills speaks to the media during a press conference at Grays Police Station in Essex on Friday (PA)

"As a result, a 38-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman from Warrington have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic people and on suspicion of 39 counts of manslaughter.

The arrests were announced as it was claimed that the migrants, believed to be Chinese nationals, could have been trafficked by a Chinese “Snakehead” gang.

An international investigation is under way as post-mortem examinations were set to start on the bodies, which were found in a refrigerated trailer in Grays in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Read More:
Lorry deaths: Warnings issued three years ago about people smuggling at quieter UK ports
CCTV of lorry before bodies found inside

It has also been suggested that the eight women and 31 men had most likely been dead for at least 12 hours in the refrigerated container.

Detectives have been given more time to question the driver of the truck, named locally as 25-year-old Mo Robinson from Northern Ireland, who has been arrested on suspicion of murder.

The task of moving the 39 bodies started on Thursday evening, with the first 11 victims moved by private ambulance with a police escort from the Port of Tilbury to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, where post-mortem examinations will be carried out.

The remaining bodies are expected to be transported in stages, with police expecting all victims to be moved to hospital by the end of the week, warning the investigation will take “some considerable time”.