On-the-run Essex migrant lorry tragedy ‘mastermind’ bought two pay-as-you-go phones with cash just days before 39 bodies were discovered
- Ronan Hughes purchased mobiles from an O2 store in Thurrock on October 19
- Four days later, 39 bodies found in a container at nearby Grays industrial estate
- Police believe Hughes was in the area orchestrating human trafficking operation
- Northern Irishman and brother Christopher Hughes still being hunted by police
The lorry firm boss suspected of masterminding the Essex migrant tragedy bought two phones with cash just days before 39 bodies were discovered in a container.
Fugitive Ronan Hughes, 40, purchased the mobiles from an O2 store at Lakeside shopping centre in Thurrock on October 19.
Four days later, the corpses of dozens of Vietnamese immigrants were found in the back of a lorry on the nearby Grays industrial estate.
He is then said to have returned to the same shop on the day of the discovery, buying another handset at about 6pm.
Police believe that the Northern Irishman was in the area to oversee the trafficking operation, but has since gone on the run as police attempt to hunt him down.
Mo Robinson (left), who picked up the container, has also been charged with manslaughter. Police are hunting Ronan Hughes (centre) and his brother Christopher (right)
Police are investigating the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants who were found in the back of this refrigerated truck in Essex
The hauler and his brother Chris Hughes, from Co Armagh are still wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking.
A source told The Sun: ‘There is CCTV footage of Ronan Hughes going to Lakeside shopping centre and buying phones four days in advance of the trailer being discovered with the bodies inside.
‘He also went back to the shop later on the day the bodies were found. The police think it suggests that Roman was on the ground overseeing the whole human trafficking operation.’
Last week, A 22-year-old man from Northern Ireland appeared in court in connection with the deaths of the 39 migrants.
Eamon Harrison, 22, of Mayobridge, Co Down, appeared for mention over a European Arrest Warrant to have him transferred to the UK.
The court was previously told that British authorities want his extradition for prosecution on 39 counts of manslaughter, one charge of conspiracy to commit human trafficking and another of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
Fifteen-year-old Nguyen Huy Hung (left) was the youngest of the group, 10 of whom were teenagers. Nguyen Dinh Lurong, 20, (right) was also named among those who died
Pham Tra My, 26, has been confirmed as among the 39 people who died in a lorry in Essex
The 41 allegations relate to the deaths of eight women and 31 men from Vietnam who were found in the back of the refrigerated truck in Grays, Essex in the early hours of October 23.
Thirty of the group were from Vietnam’s poverty-stricken provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh, which are said to be the heartlands of the country’s trafficking trade.
The group died in a container, which had been shipped to the Essex port of Purfleet from Zeebrugge in Belgium.
The driver of the lorry, Mo Robinson, 25, has appeared in court charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering.