"I am dying. I'm sorry": Texts sent from inside death truck

 

A suspected victim reportedly sent text messages hours before her death from inside a refrigerated truck where 39 bodies were later found in the UK.

Vietnamese national Pham Thi Tra My, 26, wrote to her parents just hours before the grisly discovery was made saying she was struggling to breathe and her trip abroad had failed, according to her brother Pham Ngoc Tuan who spoke to the BBC.

"I am really, really sorry, Mum and Dad, my trip to a foreign land has failed," the translated texts said.

"I am dying, I can't breathe. I love you very much Mum and Dad. I am sorry, Mother."

Mr Tuan said she had paid £30,000 (A$56,000) to be smuggled into the UK and her last-known location was in Belgium, the BBC reports.

His comments come as British police overnight revealed they have arrested a fourth person over the deaths of 39 people found in the back of a refrigerated truck in Essex, east of London.

At a press conference on Friday night, deputy chief constable Pippa Mills said the 48-year-old man from Northern Ireland had been arrested at Stansted airport in London on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic people and on suspicion of manslaughter.

She also said the nationalities of the victims, earlier reported to be Chinese nationals, was "a developing picture".

"We gave an initial steer on Thursday on nationality, however this is now a developing picture. As such I will not be drawn on any further detail until formal identification processes approved by Her Majesty's Coroner have taken place," she said.

Earlier on Friday police arrested two others, named as haulage boss Thomas Maher and his wife Joanna, both 38 and from Warrington in Cheshire, on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic people and on suspicion of 39 counts of manslaughter.

The couple are believed to have been the last known owners of the vehicle, but say they sold it to a company in Ireland just over a year ago.

"It's the cab - my name was down as owning it. We did own it, but sold it 13 months ago," Ms Maher told the Daily Mail.

The 25-year-old driver, from Northern Ireland and named as Mo Robinson is still being held on suspicion of murder.

A warrant for further detention of Robinson was granted on Thursday. Picture: Facebook/Mo Robinson
A warrant for further detention of Robinson was granted on Thursday. Picture: Facebook/Mo Robinson

'I AM DYING, I CAN'T BREATHE'

At least six of the 39 victims may have been from Vietnam, according to reports.

The BBC says it has spoken to several Vietnamese families, including Pham Thi Tra My's, who worry their relatives were in the trailer.

Pham Thi Tra My’s family fear she may have died in the Essex lorry deaths. Picture: Family of Pham Tra My
Pham Thi Tra My’s family fear she may have died in the Essex lorry deaths. Picture: Family of Pham Tra My

Meanwhile Essex residents have described the area where the truck container was found as rife with brazen people smuggling operations that police have failed to act on.

Gary Lilley, 61, who lives opposite the Purfleet port where a container entered the UK this week that was found to have the bodies of eight women and 31 men sealed inside said he had seen women and children wandering the streets after dark with carrier bags containing their belongings.

"I've lived here for 30 years and the situation is an absolute joke. I've seen literally hundreds of migrants smuggled into the country through the port," he told The Times.

"I worked there while in between jobs and it was chaos."

He said the security checks felt like "using a plaster to plug a dam" and he was horrified but not surprised to learn that 39 people had died.

Mr Lilley said he had found young women walking the street and once offered water to two young girls during a heatwave this summer. The migrants use local phone booths to call people smugglers for collection, he said.

"The port comes alive around 2am," he said. I've seen groups of migrants walking out the front door of the port with carrier bags. When there's a group of them a few security guards on minimum wage aren't going to stop them. They are all ages, babes-in-arms and five-year-old girls."

Neighbour Frederick Gurnett, 82, said it has become particularly bad in the last 10 years and he was once asked for shoes by a migrant who had just arrived and approached him in his garden.

"I felt sorry for him but his feet were much bigger than mine so I couldn't help," he said.

His wife, Pauline, 74, estimated there had been "hundreds" travelling through the port and it was "extremely sad" to see people carrying there belongings in carrier bags and being moved through a clearly organised system.

SNAKEHEAD GANGS RUN TRADE

It's believed "snakehead" Chinese people smuggling gangs could be behind the illegal operation that left 39 people dead this week.

Experts believe the victims could be the latest in a tragic trade that has previously led to the death of 58 Chinese nationals in 2000 as part of a smuggling operation led by a snakehead known as Sister Ping.

Port authorities and police have been accused of failing to act on previous warnings.

The victims are believed to have been sealed in the refrigerated container, that could have reached -25 degrees, for at least 12 hours. It's not clear at what point they entered the container.

GPS tracking data shows the container visited migrant hotpots of Calais and Dunkirk in the week before the victims were found, raising the prospect that more people could have been taken to the UK.

Essex Police have confirmed the first 11 victims have been taken to Broomfield Hospital for an identification process to take place.

"This is all being done in liaison with HM Coroner and we continue to ensure the dignity of the victims is our primary consideration," Essex police said.


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