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LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 10: The Honourable Artillery Company fire a gun salute at The Tower of London on April 10, 2021 in London, United Kingdom.  The Death Gun Salute will be fired at 1200 marking the death of His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Across the country and the globe saluting batteries will fire 41 rounds, 1 round at the start of each minute, for 40 minutes. Gun salutes are customarily fired, both on land and at sea, as a sign of respect or welcome. The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nicholas Carter, said "His Royal Highness has been a great friend, inspiration and role model for the Armed Forces and he will be sorely missed." (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
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 / AFP PHOTO / POOL / HANNAH MCKAY        (Photo credit should read HANNAH MCKAY/AFP/Getty Images)
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Britain's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in his role as Captain General, Royal Marines, attends a Parade to mark the finale of the 1664 Global Challenge on the Buckingham Palace Forecourt in central London on August 2, 2017. After a lifetime of public service by the side of his wife Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip finally retires on August 2, 2017,at the age of 96. The Duke of Edinburgh attended a parade of Royal Marines at Buckingham Palace, the last of 22,219 solo public engagements since she ascended to the throne in 1952. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / HANNAH MCKAY (Photo credit should read HANNAH MCKAY/AFP/Getty Images)
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(CNN) —  

The 39 people found dead in the back in the back of a truck in England last month are believed to be Vietnamese nationals, Essex Police said in a statement Friday.

“At this time, we believe the victims are Vietnamese nationals, and we are in contact with the Vietnamese Government,” Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith said in the statement.

He added that police were in “direct contact with a number of families in Vietnam and the UK, and we believe we have identified families for some of the victims whose journey ended in tragedy on our shores.”

The development comes a week after 39 people were found dead in the back of a refrigerated lorry in a UK industrial park in Grays, Essex, 20 miles east of London.

Essex Police initially believed that the people found dead were Chinese nationals “based on the documentation found on them,” a press officer told CNN.

39 dead bodies were found in a truck in Essex, southeast England.
Reuters
39 dead bodies were found in a truck in Essex, southeast England.

Smith said that “confirmatory evidence” needed to present cases to the coroner’s office “has not yet been obtained” and is being gathered across several jurisdictions worldwide.

“As a result, we cannot at this time announce the identity of any of the victims,” he said.

The Vietnamese Embassy in London said it was “deeply saddened” at the police’s initial findings and that it sends its “heartfelt condolences” to the families of the victims, according to Britain’s PA news agency.

The embassy added that it will “closely co-ordinate with the relevant authorities of Vietnam and [the] UK to support the families of the Vietnamese victims, if any, to bring their loved ones home,” PA said.

Vietnamese police arrest two suspects

Earlier on Friday, Vietnamese police arrested two suspects in connection to the deaths, who will be prosecuted in connection to missing persons from 10 different families in the area.

The deputy director of the Nge An district police department said police suspect the arrested pair may also have been involved in previous missing persons cases.

Meanwhile, UK police investigating the deaths appealed to two brothers to hand themselves in. Detectives made a “direct appeal” to Ronan and Christopher Hughes to come forward and “assist” the investigation during a press conference in Belfast on Friday.

“Although we have already spoken to Ronan Hughes recently by telephone, we need to have a conversation with him and his brother in person,” Detective Chief Inspector of Essex Police, Daniel Stoten said.

“Talking to Ronan and Christopher is crucial to our investigation, and the sooner we can make this happen, the sooner we can progress and continue with our investigation,” he added.

Stoten said that the brothers “are known to have links in Northern Ireland and Ireland, as well as the shipping industries.”

“It is essential that we follow all lines of inquiry and bring those responsible for these tragic events to justice,” he said, while urging anyone with knowledge of the pair to get in touch with police.

Also on Friday, a 23-year-old man, Eamon Harrison, appeared in the High Court in Dublin on a European arrest warrant. Essex police said they had started extradition proceedings to bring Harrison to the UK from Ireland so he can face charges of manslaughter, as well as human trafficking and immigration offenses.

Maurice “Mo” Robinson, a 25-year-old truck driver, appeared in court earlier this week, charged with 39 counts of manslaughter. Robinson, of Craigavon in Northern Ireland, was arrested shortly after the bodies were found in the back of a truck he was driving on October 23.

Appearing by video link, he was remanded in custody by magistrates in Chelmsford, Essex and will next appear at the Old Bailey in London on November 25.

Journalist Peter Taggart contributed reporting.