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Police hunt for brothers from Northern Ireland over truck deaths

The discovery of the bodies in a refrigerated truck on an industrial estate near London has shone a spotlight on the illicit trade that sends the poor of Asia, Africa and the Middle East on perilous journeys to the West.

A lorry, believed to have originated from Bulgaria, and found to be containing 39 dead bodies, is pictured inside a Police cordon at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, east of London, on 23 October 2019. Picture: AFP

LONDON - British police said on Tuesday they were hunting for two brothers from Northern Ireland over the deaths of 39 people discovered in the back of a truck near London last week.

The discovery of the bodies in a refrigerated truck on an industrial estate near London has shone a spotlight on the illicit trade that sends the poor of Asia, Africa and the Middle East on perilous journeys to the West.

The bodies were found in the early hours of Wednesday just over an hour after the container had arrived in Britain from Zeebrugge in Belgium.

On Monday, the truck’s driver Maurice Robinson, 25, appeared in court accused of manslaughter and money laundering as well as accusations of conspiracy to traffic people and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

For the latter alleged offences, the charge sheet stated he had conspired with Ronan Hughes and others, prosecutors said.

Police leading the investigation said Hughes, 40, and his brother Christopher, 34, from Armagh, were wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking.

“Finding and speaking to the Hughes brothers is crucial to our investigation,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Stuart Hooper.

“At this time we believe they are in Northern Ireland but they also have links to the Irish Republic. If you know where they are or have any information about their whereabouts I need you to call my team.”

Christopher Hughes is listed as a director of C Hughes Logistics Ltd based in Armagh.

In a 2016 interview with Irish Trucker magazine, he said the company ran a fleet of nine trucks, working in Sweden, Denmark, Italy and England as well as Ireland, with six full-time employees.

Three other people were arrested and released on police bail and Irish police have also arrested a man in connection with the investigation.

“This involves a global ring facilitating the movement of a large number of immigrants into the UK,” prosecution lawyer Ogheneruona Iguyovwe told Robinson’s court hearing.

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