Investigation into 2019 Grays lorry deaths targets Romanian national with fresh appeal

Mick Ferris

Detectives who continue to investigate the tragic deaths of 39 Vietnamese nationals in Thurrock in October 2019 are working alongside international partners to locate a Romanian man suspected of being involved in the conspiracy but who remains at large.

The tragic discovery was made in the early hours of Wednesday October 23, 2019, when the Vietnamese men, women and children were found unresponsive in the trailer of a lorry by its driver, in Eastern Avenue, Grays.

The lorry had travelled from Zeebrugge in Belgium to 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.

After an extensive investigation, ten people, including Robinson, have so far been sentenced for their roles in the deaths. Their sentences total almost 100 years.

Marius Mihai Draghici

As part of a joint operation with international partners, police now want to trace Romanian national Marius Mihai Draghici, 48, who they want to speak to in connection with the suspected manslaughter investigation and suspected immigration offences.

He is suspected of being part of the network which co-ordinated immigrants’ journeys to the UK both in connection with the deaths and on a number of occasions prior to October 23, 2019.

Draghici also goes by the aliases Marius Mihai Selaru and Marius Lupu and was born in the Romanian city, Onesti.

He is known to have specific connections in the Bacau area of Romania as well as in Spain. He is also known to work in the haulage industry.

Efforts to trace him through a number of tactics are ongoing.

His picture has been released along with CCTV footage him, which detectives hope will help people to identify him.

Detectives are also working with independent charity Crimestoppers in the hope of obtaining a reward for information on Draghici.

And they will also be working with partners to get their appeal to the public in Romania and Spain.

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.

“Marius Draghici remains an outstanding suspect and, just as we have promised and already delivered on, our pursuit for justice will not stop at our borders and frontiers.

“I would like to appeal to the public in Romania and indeed in Spain; help us locate Marius Draghici. He is 48-years-old, was born in Onesti and is known to have strong connections to the Bacau area of the country. We also believe he is known in the haulage industry.

“Please look closely at his picture, have you seen him? Do you know him – perhaps by a different name? If you do, please let us know.

“Draghici is wanted in connection with a very serious offence. We strongly believe he is linked to the conspiracy which tragically ripped apart the families of the 39 innocent Vietnamese men, women and children who died on our shores in 2019. The actions we believe he is responsible for cannot go unpunished.

“I would urge anyone with information to please get in touch.”

The appeal has been launched on the same day an official Vietnamese delegation was welcomed to Essex Police headquarters where they met with senior officers as well as the team of detectives who continue to investigate the incident.

Chief Superintendent Stuart Hooper, who has overseen the investigation, said: “We continue to have a really strong relationship with our Vietnamese partners, and we’ve kept them, and the families of our victims, informed every step of the way.

Ch Supt Hooper added: “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.”

Report to Essex Police

Anyone who has had any dealing with Marius Draghici and believes they know of his whereabouts should go to the police online portal and submit the information there.

It can be found here: https://mipp.police.uk/operation/4201020119P15-PO6

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Mick Ferris

Editor Email: mickferris@yellowad.co.uk