At least 10 of the victims found inside a semi-trailer in Essex could have been from Vietnam, as police and government departments continue to investigate the tragic deaths of 39 people.
A distressing final text message has emerged from a young woman named by the ABC as 26-year-old Pham Thi Tra My.
“I’m sorry, Mum and Dad. My path abroad was not a success. I love you both so much.
“I can’t breathe. I’m from Nghen Town, Can Loc District, Ha Tinh, Vietnam … I am sorry, Mum.
The message reportedly came from Ms Tra My’s family, and was received at 10.30pm (local time) on Tuesday – two hours before the trailer arrived at the terminal from Zeebrugge in Belgium.
The ABC reported that at least 10 of the victims may in fact be Vietnamese – in contrast to initial reports that have all 39 victims as being from China.
Hoa Nghiem from Human Rights Space, a civic network based in Vietnam, said Ms Tra My had gone to China and was planning to reach England via France, the ABC reported.
The Hanoi-based organisation was getting more alerts about possible Vietnamese victims in the trunk.
This is the screenshot of Tra My's last text and her photo, posted with permission from her family's contact. pic.twitter.com/8ErWHBPrbJ
— Hoa Nghiem (@HoaNghiem3) October 25, 2019
British police have arrested three more people on suspicion of human trafficking and manslaughter over the deaths of 39 people found in a semi-trailer in Essex.
Police said on Friday they had detained a man and a woman, both aged 38, in Warrington in the northwest of England, as they continue to question the 25-year-old truck driver.
Police later revealed they had also arrested a 48-year-old man from Northern Ireland at Stansted airport, north-east of London.
Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills said on Friday (local time) police were working with National Crime Agency, the Home Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Border Force and Immigration Enforcement to determine the identity of the victims.
“We gave an initial steer on Thursday on nationality, however, this is now a developing picture,” she said.
On Thursday local time, China called on Britain to seek “severe punishment” for those involved in the deaths.
The 25-year-old truck driver from Northern Ireland remains in custody after being arrested following the discovery of the bodies on Wednesday (local time).
While the driver has not been formally identified, a source familiar with the investigation named him as Mo Robinson from the Portadown area.
Detectives have been granted more time to question him.
Late on Thursday, British authorities moved 11 of the victims – 31 men and eight women – to a hospital mortuary from a secure location at docks near to the industrial estate in Grays 30 kilometres east of London.
Autopsies were beginning to determine how exactly they died while forensic experts sought to identify the deceased, which police warned would be a lengthy process.
The Chinese Embassy in London said it had sent a team to Essex, and Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said police had not yet been able to verify the nationalities of the deceased.
“We hope that the British side can as soon as possible confirm and verify the identities of the victims, ascertain what happened and severely punish criminals involved in the case,” she told a daily news briefing.
Police have said the process of identifying those who died would take some time while autopsies were carried out to determine how exactly they died.
“This is the largest investigation of its kind Essex Police has ever had to conduct and it is likely to take some considerable time to come to a conclusion,” Essex Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington said.
The focus of the police investigation is on the movement of the trailer before its arrival at Purfleet docks near Grays about an hour before the bodies were found.
Irish company Global Trailer Rentals said it owned the trailer and had rented it out on October 15. The firm said it was unaware of what it was to be used for.
The refrigeration unit had travelled to Britain from Zeebrugge in Belgium and the town’s chairman, Dirk de Fauw, said he believed the victims died in the trailer before it arrived there.
For years, illegal immigrants have attempted to reach Britain stowed away in trucks, often from the European mainland. In 2000, 58 Chinese were found dead in a tomato truck at the port of Dover.