LONDON — British police on Friday released the names of the 39 migrants who were found dead in a refrigerated truck container in Essex, and said they were working with authorities in Vietnam on repatriating the remains.
Pham Thi Tra My, 26, was also among the victims. She sent a heartbreaking text message to her mother when she was in the container, en route to England. “Mom, I love you. I’m dying, I can’t breathe,” she wrote.
A delegation of police officers and officials from Vietnam traveled to Britain this week to help with the investigation.
Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith, who is in charge of the investigation, said in a statement that police had been “working hard to bring answers to worried families who fear their loved one may be among those whose tragic journey ended on our shores. Our priority has been to identify the victims, to preserve the dignity of those who have died and to support the victims’ friends and families.”
He said that the victims’ next of kin were informed and “were given some time to absorb this tragic news before we publicly confirmed their loved one’s identity.”
The police worked with Britain’s National Crime Agency, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Vietnamese authorities to identify and locate families.
Many of the victims came from the provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh in Vietnam, which have a long history of sending migrants to Europe, especially to Britain.
Nguyen Dinh Tu, 26, a father of two, had borrowed $30,000 to fund his journey to Britain. He came from Nghe An, the largest province in Vietnam and one of its poorest regions. His name appeared on the list published Friday.
His aunt, Nguyen Thi Chin, previously told The Washington Post that “his friend told him that he should go to England, where he could make $2,600 a month working in a nail salon.”
Late last month, Essex police were called to an industrial estate about 25 miles east of central London in the town of Grays, near the River Thames, where they discovered the 39 bodies. The discovery prompted one of the largest homicide investigations in Britain’s history.
Maurice Robinson, 25, the alleged driver of the truck, has been charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people and money laundering. During his brief court appearance last month, Robinson was accused of being part of a “global ring” of people smugglers.
Eamonn Harrison, 22, has also been charged with multiple counts of manslaughter. U.K. authorities are seeking his extradition from Ireland.
Police have also called on two brothers from Northern Ireland, Ronan and Christopher Hughes, to turn themselves in. They are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking.
On Thursday, British police confirmed that all of the victims — 31 males and eight females — were Vietnamese nationals.
“May I take this opportunity to offer my deepest condolences to the victims’ families, said Caroline Beasley-Murray, the senior coroner for the investigation. “My thoughts are with them at this unimaginably difficult time.”