On Wednesday, Oct. 23, authorities found 39 bodies in a refrigerated truck at an industrial park in Waterglade, England. The driver, 25-year-old Maurice “Mo” Robinson, who was wearing a full forensic suit, has been charged with 39 counts of manslaughter and appeared in court on Monday. Three of the four individuals arrested on suspicion of committing the crime have been released on bail. Initially, British police claimed that the deceased were Chinese nationals, however, several Vietnamese families have brought forth concerns about their loved ones possibly being in the truck as well. Continuing to be a global investigation, this is reportedly among the worst of the human-smuggling cases to occur in the U.K.
On early Wednesday, Essex police officers claimed that 31 men and eight women were deceased in a truck located at an industrial park east of London. An ambulance call came in at 1:40 a.m., but it is unknown who called the service. Although the original statement from the U.K. police believed that the victims were Chinese citizens, on Friday they acknowledged the case as a “developing picture.” Nearing the end of the day, police escorted the Scania semi-trailer out of the industrial park and into a hospital where post-mortem examinations would be carried out.
Police and investigators have concluded that the people inside the trailer must have traveled from different destinations before ending up in the industrial park.
Stated by Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry, the truck was registered in Bulgaria. Due to its unknown point of origin, the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation to discover the truck’s original traffic routes.
“To put 39 people into a locked metal container shows a contempt for human life that is evil…The best thing we can do in memory of those victims is to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice,” said Jackie Doyle-Price, a member of Parliament who represents the area. Prime Minister of Parliament, Boris Johnson, commented on the tragedy. Johnson stated, “All such traders in human beings should be hunted down and brought to justice.”
On Saturday, Oct. 26, Robinson was charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people between Dec. 1, 2018 and Oct. 24, 2019, conspiracy to assist in unlawful immigration and money laundering.
During his court appearance on Monday, Robinson spoke only to confirm his name as well as his address. One prosecutor claimed that Robinson was part of a global ring to facilitate illegal immigration into the U.K.
Many Vietnamese families fear their loved ones were among the victims of the truck. In an interview conducted by Channel 4 News in central Vietnam, one family expressed that they lost contact with their son about a week before the event; the family expressed that he dreamed of living in London and that he had friends waiting for him. Another family interviewed, heart-stricken by sorrow, showed Channel 4 News perhaps their daughter, Pham Thi Tra My’s last words in a text message before the night the truck was discovered; the text message read, “I’m so sorry mom and dad…My journey abroad doesn’t succeed… Mom, I love you and dad very much,” she then added that she could not breathe. In an interview with her father, he stated that she wanted to leave for work in an attempt to pay off the family’s debts alongside her younger brother’s. “She was always thinking about her family,” her father said.
At the moment, detectives are trying to identify the bodies through dental records, clothes and personal belongings. Reportedly, everyone in the truck had over 500 items among them.
“No matter where these victims come from, this is a great tragedy which drew the attention of the international community to the issue of illegal immigration,” stated Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. “The international community should further strengthen cooperation in this area, strengthen sharing of information and intelligence … to prevent such tragedies from happening again.”
The National Crime Agency of the U.K reported that its specialists are working urgently to uncover and act upon any organized crime groups who may have played a role in the crime. Therefore, the investigation of reportedly one of the worst human-smuggling cases to occur in the U.K will continue.