Two of the 39 people whose bodies were found in a refrigerated container in the United Kingdom this week came from Vietnam, RFA’s Vietnamese Service confirmed on Friday.
British investigators began work on Friday on the first autopsies on the bodies, all of whom were initially believed to be Chinese nationals, although none has yet been identified.
The bodies were found on Wednesday when ambulances were called to a parked truck in an industrial zone in Grays, east of London, only to find that all 39 victims inside were already dead. The local Essex police force said it is beginning the largest-ever murder investigation in its history.
In telephone interviews to Vietnam, RFA spoke to the father of one young man and the brother of a young woman, both of who said they were on the ill-fated truck. Comments on social media by a Vietnamese human rights activist, and by the desperate woman to her parents, also confirmed the loss of the 26-year-old woman.
Reuters news agency quoted Vietnam's embassy in London on Friday as saying it had received requests from Vietnamese families asking for help in finding out whether their relatives were among the 39 victims found dead in the back of the truck near London.
Nguyen Dinh Gia from Can Loc, Ha Tinh Province told RFA that he was notified over the phone by a member of the France- based human trafficking ring that his restaurant worker son, Nguyen Dinh Luong, was one of 39 dead in the truck found in coastal Britain on Wednesday.
“There was a resident in France where my son lived who intended to move to England and asked him to join him,” said the father.
“When he was going to move to England, I received a phone call saying I should be ready to talk to my son. That person said that in an hour both the father and son would be connected. Then I lost contact,” he said.
“Two days later, that person phoned, saying that my son had died already,” said Nguyen Dinh Gia.
The father said Nguyen Dinh Luong, then 17, had left Ha Tinh for China on Oct. 21, 2017 and six months later he managed to reach France, seeking a better life. Once the son was settled, his family transferred U.S. $18,000 to the trafficking ring as a fee for “transporting him to a free country,” he said.
'I’m dying because I can’t breathe.'
In a second case, the New York Times quoted a frantic message sent to her family on Tuesday by by Pham Thi Tra My, 26, who had also reached France by way of China and had attempted to get to Britain.
“I’m sorry Mom, my path to abroad didn’t succeed,” she wrote. “Mom, I love you and Dad so much! I’m dying because I can’t breathe.”
RFA reached Pham’s younger brother, Pham Manh Cuong, by telephone on Friday and he confirmed that his sister had gone missing two days earlier while trying to reach Britain and the family has not received any further information.
Nghiem Hoa, an activist with the group Human Rights Space, had posted on Facebook Friday that Vietnamese families were holding their breath at the initial news of the 39 bodies found in the truck, then felt relief at reports they were all Chinese.
“But this morning I got the news from a friend that a family in Ha Tinh has lost contact with their daughter since Oct. 23, approximately the time of the incident,” she wrote.
Essex Police said in a statement on Friday that they had arrested a 38-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman from Warrington in the northwestern county of Cheshire on suspicion of 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to traffic people.
It said the 25-year-old truck driver remains in custody on suspicion of murder.
"The first post-mortem examinations will begin today, Friday 25 October," it said, adding that formal identification would follow the report by the official coroner.
Reported by RFA's Vietnamese Service, and by Luisetta Mudie. Translated by An Nguyen. Written by Paul Eckert.