The driver of a truck found with 39 bodies in the back in the UK has been hit with a manslaughter charge for each of the dead, according to authorities.
Maurice Robinson, 25, was charged Saturday with 39 counts of manslaughter as well as conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering, Essex Police said.
Robinson, of Craigavon, Northern Ireland, is due in Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on Monday, officials said.
He was arrested in the early hours Wednesday shortly after the grisly discovery of the dead — all thought to be Vietnamese immigrants — in the back of his refrigerated Scania truck in Grays, Essex.
Three others who were arrested have been released on bail as the investigation continues, police revealed Sunday.
A man and a woman from Warrington, both 38, were arrested at a house in Cheshire on Friday and are out on bail until Nov. 11. A 46-year-old man from Northern Ireland was arrested at Stansted Airport on Friday and has been bailed until Nov. 13.
All three had been questioned on suspicion of manslaughter and conspiracy to traffic people, Essex Police said.
The arrests came as heartbreaking stories started to emerge about some of the dead, including one woman, Pham Thi Tra My, 26, who texted her parents to say, “Mom, I love you and Dad so much! I’m dying because I can’t breathe.”
Police said they have more than 500 exhibits — including cell phones that have to be downloaded — in the “largest mass fatality victim identification process” in the force’s history.
“Officers are meticulously processing all the property that was with the victims and in the lorry and every item has an individual record made of it,” police said in a statement.
Officers also stressed that identifying victims was their top priority — promising not to take action against anyone in the country illegally if they helped the inquiry.
“We understand some people may be frightened but I hope people will put trust in me and make that leap of faith – Essex Police will not look to take any action against you,” Senior Identification Manager Detective Chief Inspector Martin Pasmore said.
“If you come to us, we will do all we can to put our arm around you and take you through this process, and establish as quickly as possible whether or not we have your loved involved in this tragic incident, and try and reunite you.”
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