UK police step up appeals over migrant lorry deaths

Belfast (AFP) –


British detectives probing the deaths of 39 Asian migrants in a refrigerated truck near London renewed on Friday their appeal for two brothers in the haulage business to help with the investigation.

Essex Police said they wanted to speak to Ronan and Christopher Hughes from Northern Ireland in connection with the discovery of the bodies at an industrial estate last month.

Detective Chief Inspector Dan Stoten said on a visit to Belfast that officers had already spoken to Ronan Hughes by telephone but needed to talk to him again in person.

"Talking to Ronan and Christopher is crucial to our investigation and the sooner we can make this happen the sooner we can progress and continue with our investigation," he said.

The Hughes brothers, aged 40 and 34, have links across the island of Ireland to the road haulage and shipping business, said Stoten.

The victims -- eight women and 31 men -- were found in a truck that entered Britain on a ferry from Belgium.

Post-mortem examinations are being carried out and no formal cause of death or identification have been released.

But several Vietnamese families fear their relatives are among the dead.

A multinational police investigation is now under way in a case that has shocked Britain and renewed debates about ways to stop human trafficking.

In Vietnam, police on Friday announced the arrest of two people for trafficking in connection with the deaths.

The pair were accused of "organising and brokering for other people to go abroad and stay abroad illegally", a Vietnamese police statement said.

In Dublin, a 23-year-old from Northern Ireland appeared at Ireland's High Court for the start of extradition proceedings to bring him to Britain.

The individual is charged with 39 offences of manslaughter, as well as immigration and human trafficking offences.

The man, from a village outside the Northern Irish border city of Newry, was remanded in custody until November 11, a court spokesman told AFP.

The 25-year-old driver of the refrigerated lorry who is from Northern Ireland was remanded in custody when he appeared in court last week charged with manslaughter, money laundering and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Three other people have been arrested and released on police bail.