Millennium Post

Truck driver remanded at UK court over 39 dead migrants

London: A UK court on Monday remanded in custody a truck driver over the deaths of 39 Asian migrants he had been smuggling, in a case that has horrified Britain and sparked a search for their country of origin.

Maurice Robinson, a 25-year-old from Northern Ireland known as Mo, was charged Saturday with 39 counts of manslaughter, money laundering and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

As bereaved families in Vietnam prayed for their missing sons and daughters, some of whose identities emerged online, Robinson made no statement in a brief video appearance at a court in Chelmsford, northeast of London.

He has been scheduled to enter a plea at London's Old Bailey court on November 25.

The eight women and 31 men found Wednesday in a refrigerated container in Essex, southeast England, were originally identified as Chinese. But several Vietnamese families have come forward since, saying they feared their relatives were among the dead, and UK authorities have walked back their original statement.

The grim case has again cast light on the extreme dangers facing illegal migrants seeking better lives in Europe, and reopened debates across Britain about ways to prevent such tragedies from happening again.

Britain is now conducting its largest murder investigation since the July 7, 2005 London suicide bombings that killed 52 people.

Officials started collecting DNA samples from families in Nghe An and Ha Tinh, impoverished provinces in central Vietnam where most of the suspected victims came from.

On Monday, Vietnam said Britain had sent documents to help with the complicated task of identifying the bodies, many of whom were believed to be carrying falsified passports.

"The UK side has sent four sets of dossiers related to the Essex lorry deaths... for verification coordination," Vietnam's Deputy Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son said.

Vietnam's foreign ministry is gathering information on the suspected victims, the report said, after hair and blood samples were collected from several families.

UK authorities arrested another man wanted in the case on Saturday in Dublin, while three others detained earlier have been released on bail. The man arrested on Saturday is also believed to be in his 20s and from Northern

Ireland, although no details about his identity have been released.

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