FUNERALS have been held for some of the 39 people found dead in the back of a refrigerated lorry in Grays.

The bodies of all of the victims have now been returned with the final 16 bodies and seven urns arriving at Hanoi Airport during the weekend before being loaded into ambulances and returned to their families.

Southend Standard:

Arrival - the bodies were flown back to Vietnam

Southend Standard:

Anguish - families saying goodbye to their loved ones

The victims were aged between 15 and 44. While no cause of death has been officially established, the circumstances suggested asphyxiation.

The 31 men and eight women are believed to have paid human traffickers for their transit into England. Several suspects have been arrested in the UK and Vietnam.

An initial batch of 16 bodies were handed over to their families on Wednesday,

Hoang Lanh, father of 18-year-old victim Hoang Van Tiep, said: “It’s bittersweet, I can’t believe I would have to welcome my son back like this.

“I’m devastated but I am happy to have him back with us.”

His sister added: “We are very sad, but we are happy now that he has been brought back to the place where he was born to be with his family.

“He wouldn’t be able to rest in peace if he had still been in England.”

Nguyen Thanh Le, father of 33-year-old Nguyen Van Hung, said: “I have been sad for a month and I can’t eat anything.

“My son died far away from his home and I had to wait for a long time.

Maurice Robinson, 25, of Laurel Drive, Craigavon, Northern Ireland has admitted plotting with others to assist illegal immigration and acquiring criminal property.

The Northern Irish truck driver has not entered pleas to 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to traffic people.

He is one of six people to have been arrested in connection with the investigation.

Police are hunting Ronan Hughes, 40, and Christopher Hughes, 34, both from Armagh in Northern Ireland, who remain on the run.

Asst Chief Con Tim Smith said: “On behalf of everyone at Essex Police I would like to extend our sincerest condolences to the families of the victims as they are reunited with their loved ones following their tragic deaths in October.

“Our thoughts are with them.”

The investigation continues. Call 101 with information.