Detectives investigating deaths of 39 people in Essex are in Vietnam to meet victims' families

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By Thomas Hornall, PA

A team of British detectives investigating the deaths of 39 people in a refrigerated container in Essex are in Vietnam to meet the victims' families.

Ten teenagers, including two 15-year-old boys, were among eight women and 31 males, all Vietnamese nationals, whose bodies were discovered in the trailer in an industrial park in Grays in the early hours of October 23.

Essex Police said a team of 12 officers and staff will be in the country until the end of the month meeting relatives as they look into the alleged human trafficking plot.

Staff from the National Crime Agency and officers from Vietnam's ministry of public security are assisting with the investigation.

On Tuesday it was revealed the provisional cause of death for those in the lorry was a combination of suffocation and overheating in an enclosed space, Essex Police said.

Lorry driver Maurice Robinson has previously admitted conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property - namely cash.

The 25-year-old, of Laurel Drive in Craigavon, Northern Ireland, has yet to enter pleas to 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to commit human trafficking and transferring criminal property.

Co-defendant Christopher Kennedy, 23, from Darkley, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, has denied being involved in the alleged human trafficking plot and denied conspiring to assist unlawful immigration.

A further hearing will take place on March 16 at the Old Bailey, with a provisional trial set for October 5.

A 22-year-old man was arrested in Northern Ireland on Sunday on suspicion of manslaughter and facilitating unlawful immigration. He is currently in custody in Essex, the force said.

Gheorghe Nica, 43, of Basildon, was arrested at Frankfurt Airport on January 29 under a European Arrest Warrant and will appear at the Old Bailey on March 16, Essex Police said.

He faces 39 counts of manslaughter and one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Eamonn Harrison, 23, of Mayobridge, Co Down, Northern Ireland, is wanted in the UK on 39 charges of manslaughter and charges of conspiracy to traffic people and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration. He was on Wednesday granted permission by a High Court judge in Dublin to appeal against his extradition.

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