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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Robyn Vinter

Oldham fire victim’s family ‘devastated’, inquest into four men’s deaths told

Top L-R: Cuong Van Chu, Uoc Van Nguyen. Bottom L-R: Duong Van Nguyen and Nam Thanh Lee
Top L-R: Cuong Van Chu, Uoc Van Nguyen. Bottom L-R: Duong Van Nguyen and Nam Thanh Lee. Photograph: Greater Manchester police

The family of one of four men whose bodies were found after a mill fire in Oldham earlier this year say they are devastated to learn of the “most terrible circumstances” of his death.

An inquest into the deaths of Cuong Van Chu and three other Vietnamese men whose remains were found by demolition workers in August after a fire at the derelict Bismark House Mill in May, was opened and adjourned pending a criminal investigation.

The 39-year-old was identified by DNA when detectives matched tissue from his thigh to samples taken from his parents in Vietnam.

In a statement, Chu’s family paid tribute to him, saying: “Cuong’s family are devastated at his tragic death in the most terrible circumstances.

“We are grateful for the work by Greater Manchester police in finding Cuong and we are now wanting to have Cuong returned home to our family in Vietnam to finally lay him to rest peacefully.”

The other men, Uoc Van Nguyen, Duong Van Nguyen and Nam Thanh Lee were also identified using DNA from their families in Vietnam.

The inquest at Rochdale coroner’s court heard how Chu’s wife and children maintained regular contact with him since his arrival in the UK in 2019 but had not heard from him since 7 May.

Uoc Van Nguyen, 31, had told his wife he was in a mill, shortly before his death.

Duong Van Nguyen, 29, arrived in the UK about 12 months ago and last contacted his family in the month before the fire, at which time he said he was residing in “an abandoned house” while looking for work.

Lee, who was 21 at the time of his death, had arrived in the UK a few months earlier in January. He last contacted his family a couple of days before the fire, at which time he said he was residing in “a derelict house” in “Dam” – believed to mean Oldham – while looking for work.

Firefighters spent four days tackling the blaze, which started on 7 May in what was thought to be an empty mill. It was not until 23 July that the men’s remains were found by workers demolishing what was left of the site.

The criminal investigation remains open, with Greater Manchester police previously arresting two people who are still on bail. Police urged anyone with information to contact them in English or Vietnamese.

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