Hoping for a better life, here are the faces of the 39 people who are believed to have frozen to death in the back of a truck after a desperate attempt to reach Britain.
The victims were discovered naked, or with minimal clothing, and had been desperately ‘banging on the doors’ for help and had ‘foam coming from their mouths’.
The bodies of eight women and 31 men could have been frozen in the truck for several days when they were discovered on Wednesday in Grays, Essex, after the container criss-crossed the Channel via refugee hotspots.
It is now thought that as many as 25 of the 39 victims are Vietnamese and from the same impoverished coastal region of Yen Than.
Relatives said several were going to work in nail salons.
VietHome, a British organisation which tries to help UK-based Vietnamese residents, said it had been sent 20 photographs and names of people feared to have been inside the lorry container.
Seven suspected victims have so far come to light, Anna Bui Thi Nhung, Pham Thi Tra My, Nguyen Dinh Luong, Nguyen Dinh Tu, Vo Ngoc Nam and cousins Hung Nguyen and Hoang Van Tiep.
All 39 people have been moved from Tilbury Docks to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford and are being formally identified.
An aspiring nail technician who paid almost £8,800 in a desperate attempt to make it to Britain
Anna Bui Thi Nhung, 19, from Vietnam paid an agent over $10,000 with the hope of entering the U.K. to work as a nail technician, according to a relative.
Her mother and a sister today cried as they set up an altar with incense and a photo of the suspected victim where family and friends can pray at their home in Do Thanh village.
The family heard from a friend living in the UK that ‘Nhung is one of the victims,’ said one of her relatives, who was visiting the missing teen’s mother.
Nhung and many others from Yen Thanh district, where the village is located, some 200 kilometers (120 miles) south of Hanoi, travel abroad looking to make the type of money they cannot earn back home. One of their main goals is to send back enough to allow their families to build large homes that they would otherwise be unable to afford.
On October 21, days before her family lost contact with her and the news of the doomed shipping container emerged, Nhung wrote in a Facebook post: ‘Being grown up means having to hide your sadness in the dark, and keeping a smile on your face.’
Nhung’s family said she first left Nhung on her journey overseas in August. She went to China first, before eventually making her way to Germany, then Belgium, where they believe she boarded the fated truck.
‘I just want a peaceful life,’ Nhung wrote in a caption beneath a photo of her smiling in a green field a few weeks after leaving Vietnam.
Late on Saturday night, Nhung’s family, devoid of hope, set up an altar in her memory, with her photo next to her father’s.
Her father died of cancer a few years ago. Her mother was unable to work because of health complications and so her loved ones clubbed together to finance a new life overseas, Nhung’s family told Reuters.
‘Nhung didn’t have the qualifications to get a good job with handsome pay. Nor do her friends and many others here,’ said Nhung’s uncle, Hoang Binh.
‘Going abroad and sending back money was the only choice,’ he added.
By early September, it was not clear where she was, but Nhung was already well into her trip, and reflecting on her next steps.
Beside a stock image of two children flying kites at sunset, she posted: ‘As I grow up, I see that life is not as peaceful as I used to think. When I grow up, I want to go back to my childhood, when I lived freely’.
Ton Quang Tuan, one of Nhung’s friends living in Berlin, said that ‘We went out a few times when Nhung was in Berlin’ and added that ‘she was in a good mood, very happy,’ but they lost contact after she said she had to leave for Britain.
It was not clear how Nhung had travelled from the Vietnamese countryside to China and then Berlin, but the German capital has emerged in recent years as a staging ground for Vietnamese and other migrants looking to start new lives in Britain.
‘I feel lonely in the place I used to dream of everyday,’ Nhung wrote on September 25.
It was unclear where she was – Vietnamese smugglers are said to advise their subjects to live discreetly and not to give away too many clues in order to evade detection from the authorities.
A few days later, Nhung was pictured outside Berlin Cathedral with a cup of bubble tea in her hands.
By late October, Nhung was in Belgium. She posted photos of herself, again with a cup of bubble tea in her hand, excitedly exploring the sights of Brussels, including the old stock exchange and the bustling Rue Auguste Orts thoroughfare.
It was from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge that the doomed container eventually departed. Her family believe that she was on board.
In Berlin, Nhung wrote: ‘Back in Vietnam, I thought Europe was pink. But it turns out it’s black’.
‘Sorry mum, I can’t breathe’: The harrowing messages sent from inside the lorry by a victim who only wanted ‘a better life’
Suspected victim Pham Thi Tra My, 26, from Vietnam sent her mother a series of harrowing messages telling her she ‘loved her’ and was ‘dying because she couldn’t breathe’ in the moments before her death, her family have claimed.
They claim to have paid people smugglers £30,000 for their daughter to travel to the UK via China ‘in search of a better life’.
She is from Ha Tinh, an impoverished province in a part of Vietnam where many of the country’s illegal migrants come from.
Nguyen Thi Phong and Pham Van Thin, told CNN it was ‘very painful’ to receive the text – saying she must have known she was going to die when she sent it.
‘I’ve lost both my loved one and my money,’ her father Pham said, claiming he and his partner scraped together the money to pay for their daughter to travel to the UK.
The pair, who make around $400 a month between them, said the smugglers did not tell them how their daughter would be transported to the UK.
‘The smugglers said that this was a … safe route, that people would go by airplane, car … if I had known she would go by this route, I would not have let her go,’ Pham added.
A human rights worker in Vietnam, who has spoken with Tra My’s family, revealed she made the perilous journey because her family was in debt and she was desperately trying to help them.
‘She had just returned from Japan where she was working to try and pay off the debt. And that was not enough and so she looked for a better future,’ she told the BBC.
Asking to remain anonymous, the human rights worker continued: ‘For this girl it is very sad that she took the risk because she was dealing with debt that was created by another man in the family.
‘And I also learnt that the service that she was using was called ‘very important service’ and so it is like a business class ticket on the lorry and with that she had to pay double or three times the price of the cheap ticket.’
The human rights worker added that migrants are told they can vast amounts of money by moving to the UK, and the 26-year-old may have been convinced to purchase a ‘VIP ticket’ to get there.
He family mortgaged the house to get that money for her, the human rights worked added.
Pham Thi Tra’s last text messages were sent at 10.28pm BST on Tuesday – two hours before the truck reached the UK, as it was en route from Belgium.
She told her mother: ‘I’m sorry Mum. My journey abroad hasn’t succeeded. Mum, I love you so much. I’m dying because I can’t breathe.’
Tra My’s brother told the BBC on Friday that his sister had told them not to contact her because ‘the organisers’ did not allow her to receive calls.
He said she flew to China from her home in Can Lộc, a rural district of Hà Tĩnh Province in Vietnam, then left for France and initially attempted to cross the border into the UK on October 19, but ‘got caught’ and turned back.
A 20-year-old man from an impoverished Vietnamese province with dreams of a better life in Britain
Another of the suspected victims was revealed to be Nguyen Dinh Luong, 20.
His father Nguyen Dinh Gia said his son told him two weeks ago he planned to travel to Britain from France, where he had been living illegally since 2018.
He said he would pay $14,000 for the journey and planned to work in a nail salon when he got to Britain.
But Gia got a call several days ago from a Vietnamese man saying ‘Please have some sympathy, something unexpected happened,’ he told AFP.
‘I fell to the ground when I heard that,’ Gia told AFP.
‘It seemed that he was in the truck with the accident, all of them dead,’ he added.
His father told The Associated Press he had not been able to reach him since last week. He had said he would join a group in Paris that was trying to reach England.
‘He often called home but I haven’t been able to reach him since the last time we talked last week,’ Nguyen Dinh Gia said. ‘I told him that he could go to anywhere he wants as long as it’s safe. He shouldn’t worry about money, I’ll take care of it.’
He said his son left home in central Ha Tinh province to work in Russia in 2017, then on to Ukraine. In April 2018, he arrived in Germany then traveled to France. He told his family that he wanted to go to the UK.
Luong’s older brother, Pham Dinh Hai, said that Luong had a tattoo of praying hands on a cross on his right shoulder. The family said they shared the information with local authorities.
Luong is also from Ha Tinh.
His wife is left with debts to the tune of £11,000 after his tragic crossing
One of the newly named suspected victims, Nguyen Dinh Tu, had a few months ago asked his wife Hoang Thi Thuong to help him raise £11,000 ($14,000) to cover the cost of an illicit trip from Germany to the United Kingdom.
Ms Hoang revealed he had been working illegally in Romania and Germany and had begged her for money to get to the UK.
‘I lost contact with him on October 21,’ Thuong said with tears in her eyes. ‘I have a big debt to pay, no hope, and no energy to do anything’.
Tu’s father said relatives in the United Kingdom had told him that Tu was inside the truck, and had been planning to pick him up.
‘They were supposed to pick him up at the drop-off point but they called and said Tu was in that truck,’ Tu’s father, Nguyen Dinh Sat, said.
‘I haven’t heard anything from my son’.
A father-of-two who asked his family to pray for his safe journey to Britain
Father-of-two Vo Ngoc Nam, 28, is also feared to have been in the ill-fated container.
His wife, Ta Thi Oanh, told Vietnamese media that he had called her last Tuesday afternoon to say he was on the truck going to Britain.
He asked her to call her parents and ask them to pray for him, but has not been heard of since.
Mr Nam’s father, Vo Ngoc Luyen, said: ‘After reading information about the 39 people in the container in the UK, my family is extremely shocked. We are anxiously waiting for official information from the authorities.’
An aunt’s plea for information about her nephews, who she fears were both in the container
Cousins Hung Nguyen, 33, and Hoang Van Tiep were both feared to be in the container.
Their aunt posted photographs on social media in the hope that they might be found alive.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, by Jemma Carr, Abul Taher and Holly Bancroft