'Your journey must have been so miserable': A mother's pain as she waits to hear if her son is dead

  • Video report by ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith

In Dien Chau district in Nghe An, two cousins from the same village have been reported missing, presumed to be on the lorry found in Essex.

Holding on to the only photographs she has, Hung’s mother can’t stop thinking about her missing son.

Nguyen Lan looks at the face in the picture, crying, and says: “You only left home because you care about your family, my son.

"I know you wanted to make money to help us.

"Your journey must have been so miserable!"

She still doesn’t know if he’s alive or dead.

All she knows is he was going to be taken from France to England and was promised a job in a nail bar.

Then communication stopped the day the lorry was found with 39 people dead inside.

Hung's parents fear he is one of the 39 people found in the lorry.

“We thought he was going to be taken by taxi and we were told it would be safe,” his father, Nguyen Van Le, tells me.

"We didn’t think it would be in a lorry like that.”

Hung’s brother, Gioan, wants to go to England so his family will know one way or another if he is among the victims.

He has a passport, but his income is so low he wouldn’t meet the normal requirements to qualify for a UK visa.

That’s the case for most people here in rural Vietnam - and it’s why so many here see their only way to the UK is paying smugglers tens of thousands of pounds with borrowed money.

They’re promised jobs along the way and upon arrival to pay off their debts, and told they’ll be in profit within a year to send money home.

Tiep's father said he has a distinctive birth mark.

The reality is, of course, often different from the promises sold to them.

A short walk away from Hung’s house, his cousin Tiep is also missing.

Tiep is just 18-years-old.

“He has a distinctive birth mark behind his ear,” his father, Hoang Van Lan, tells me.

“Also a burn mark on his left hand.”

He hopes this information will help police with identification.

Then, we saw evidence of the smuggling gangs involved and how much they charged to put 39 people into a refrigerator lorry.

Tiep’s last texts say: “I’m on the way there mum. You will have to pay £10,500. You need to pay them.”

The last text Tiep sent his mother.

Those messages were sent the day the before the lorry was found in Essex.

The family says the fee would be paid to an "agent" who would visit them after Tiep called to say he’d arrived safely.

That call hasn’t been made.

The names and the stories of the missing are starting to emerge.

Pham Tra My, a 26-year-old woman from Ha Tinh whose last text messages to her parents said she was dying.

Nguyen Dinh Tu, a father of two from Yen Thanh whose wife is now in a hospital here, inconsolable with grief.

They are all from Vietnam’s central provinces, all believed to have been on the lorry.

British police have now sent documents found on four of the bodies to the Vietnamese government.

Identification of all 39 is going to be slow and arduous process.

For families here, it’s an unbearably painful one.