Lorry deaths of Vietnamese in UK spark 26 arrests

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Pham Thi Tra My, 26, and Nguyen Dinh Luong, 20, were among the victims

Twenty-six people thought to be linked to trafficking from Vietnam to the UK have been arrested by police investigating the deaths of 39 Vietnamese in a lorry in 2019.

Thirteen people, including Moroccans and Vietnamese, were held in Brussels and 13 more in Paris, authorities say.

They are allegedly part of a gang involved in smuggling the group found dead in a lorry in Essex last October.

A UK report found the migrants all died from asphyxia and hypothermia.

Belgian prosecutors said the suspects had probably “transported up to several dozen people every day for several months”.

The smuggling network, they said, was suspected of having made the October 2019 trip possible.

The EU’s Agency for Criminal Justice Co-operation (Eurojust) said police had carried out cross-border raids on Tuesday morning in an operation that involved four nations – the UK, France, Belgium and Ireland – along with Europol.

Old Bailey hearing

A number of people had earlier been arrested in connection with the deaths, including several in Vietnam.

The driver of the lorry, Maurice Robinson, pleaded guilty last month to 39 counts of manslaughter.

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PA Media

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The 39 dead included two 15-year-olds and eight other teenagers

At the same hearing at London’s Old Bailey, co-defendant Gheorghe Nica denied 39 counts of manslaughter. Another three men charged with other offences in connection with the deaths also appeared via video-link.

A trial on remaining charges is scheduled to begin on 5 October.

The bodies of the Vietnamese nationals were discovered at an industrial estate soon after the lorry arrived in the UK on a ferry from Zeebrugge in Belgium.

Among the men, women and children were 10 teenagers, two of them 15-year-old boys.

Among those who died was 26-year-old Pham Thi Tra My, who sent her family a message on 22 October saying she could not breathe and her “trip to a foreign land has failed”.

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