Police are hunting a man suspected of being part of a conspiracy that led to the deaths of 39 Vietnamese nationals found in the back of a lorry in a bid to find the “final piece of the jigsaw” in the probe.
Essex Police have released an image of Romanian national Marius Mihai Draghici, who is suspected of being part of the network which co-ordinated immigrants’ journeys to the UK.
The force said this was both in connection with the fatal journey on October 23, 2019, and a number of occasions prior.
What happened to the 39 Vietnamese people?
The bodies of the 39 Vietnamese men, women and children were found in the trailer of a lorry by its driver, in Eastern Avenue, Grays, Essex in the early hours of 23 October.
The lorry had travelled from Zeebrugge in Belgium to the Port of Purfleet.
Each of the victims, and their families, had paid significant sums of money to an organised criminal group whose members promised them safe passage to the UK and a life there.
However, that promise turned to tragedy and the victims suffocated in the back of the lorry which was being driven by Northern Irishman Maurice Robinson.
So far 10 people, including Robinson, have been sentenced for their roles in the deaths. Their sentences total almost 100 years.
Draghici also goes by the aliases Marius Mihai Selaru and Marius Lupu and was born in the Romanian city of Onesti.
The 48-year-old is known to work in the haulage industry and has connections in the Bacau area of Romania as well as in Spain.
What have police said?
Essex Police said they are using a “number of tactics” to trace the suspect, and are working with international partners, and have also released a photograph of Draghici in the hope people can help identify him.
Chief Superintendent Stuart Hooper, who has overseen the investigation, said: “We have lived up to our promise of delivering justice but there is one final piece of that jigsaw to be completed.
“We’ll be working with international partners and other agencies in order to make sure our appeal is heard far and wide. We are committed to tracking down every individual we believe to be connected to this most horrific of crimes.”
Detective Chief Inspector Louise Metcalfe, who is leading the investigation said:“The investigation into the tragic deaths of the 39 Vietnamese nationals is the most complex ever undertaken by Essex Police.
“So far, we have brought ten people to justice and achieved prison sentences of almost 100 years in total.
“But we made a promise to the families of those who lost their lives in Essex in October 2019 that we would not stop until justice has been delivered in its entirety.”
Police said Vietnamese partners have been briefed on the latest developments in the case.
Anyone who has had any dealings with Marius Draghici and believes they know of his whereabouts is asked to submit information via the police’s online portal.