Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Lyell Tweed

Cause of Oldham mill fire which killed four Vietnamese nationals yet to be determined

The cause of a fire which burned a former mill to the ground and led to the discovery of four Vietnamese nationals is still yet to be determined, an inquest has heard. Uoc Van Nguyen, Cuong Van Chu, Duong Van Nguyen and Nam Thanh Lee were all formally identified following the tragedy at the derelict Bismark House Mill.

A fire broke out at the mill in Oldham on May 7 last year and took four days for the fire service to bring under control. The human remains were then first discovered by demolition workers on July 23 with a complex investigation to identify the individuals begun.

A part-heard inquest hearing at Rochdale Coroners' Court today (June 9) heard details of how each individual was identified, using DNA testing, evidence from forensic anthropologists, and forensic odonatologists. Senior Coroner Joanne Kearsley told the court that the search undertaken of the site was "extremely complex" and "difficult," but was as thorough as it could be.

Join our WhatsApp Top Stories and Breaking News group by clicking this link

The search which found the 'majority of each victim' took six months and meant searching through 5,000 tons of rubble. Detective Superintendent Lewis Hughes, of Greater Manchester Police, confirmed to the court that 'as far as possible' all that was there of the four victims has been recovered. He added there was no evidence that there were any more possible victims other than the four identified.

Ms Kearsley opened the hearing saying that it would "only deal with the identification of the deceased" and a full inquest in "due course" would determine how they died. DSI Hughes took the court through the process that police took to identify the four men, after which they were able to be in a position to release them to be sent back home to their families in Vietnam.

Police and other agencies spent around six months searching for all the remains they could (MEN MEDIA)

Duong Van Nguyen, 29, Cuong Van Chu, 39, Nam Thanh Lee, 21, were all positively identified from a variety of fragments found using DNA testing with their families in Vietnam, a process called mechanical matching by forensic anthropologists, and odonatologists. Uoc Van Nguyen, 28, was initially able to be identified through his fingerprints which were on an immigration and asylum seeker database, along with the other forensic and DNA tests used.

Issuing an update on the investigation, DSI Hughes said: "At this time four people have been arrested, interviewed and bailed in relation to the deaths of the four males. A large number of search warrants have been completed with witnesses interviewed.

"There have been multiple agencies working with the fire service to build up an accurate picture of the fire. But, as of yet no cause of fire has been identified.

"A large quantity of information has been obtained which continues to be reviewed while a number of mobile phones may identify further individuals who are linked to criminality such as organised crime for the cultivation of cannabis and more.

DSI Hughes added: "The senior investigating officer anticipates that he will be able to provide a more comprehensive update regarding the suspects in particularly within six months." He also clarified that no one has been charged with any offences yet.

Clockwise from top left: Uoc Van Nguyen; Nam Thanh Le; Coung Van Chu; Duong Van Nguyen (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS)

Ms Kearsley ended by heaping praise onto the emergency services involved in the initial response to the blaze and their work done during the complex investigation that followed the discovery of the four men. She said: "There was extraordinary work conducted on the scene, having seen personally the complexity and difficulty with which all agencies worked tirelessly over a six month period from July last year to January this year. All agencies worked on the scene with dignity and compassion.

"They did their absolute upmost to recover the remains of those four individuals and I would like to thank GMP's disaster identification teams and the teams on the scene afterwards from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service. Their work was nothing short of remarkable over the six months, we are grateful for their recovery.

"Without them we would not be in a position to be able to return loved ones back to Vietnam. I think this is one of the most complex and challenging investigations in terms of identification conducted in the UK for a long time."

The coroner told family members who were present over a video link that their loved ones could now be cremated within three to six weeks in order for them to be reunited with them in Vietnam. Ms Kearsley adjourned the inquest for a review to take place in November this year, depending on the outcome of ongoing police investigations.

For more of today's top stories click here.


Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.