Four men who died after a fire at a derelict mill in Oldham have now been formally identified after detectives flew out to Vietnam to obtain DNA samples and statements from their relatives.
Heartbreaking details of the last conversations they had with their families more than 6,000 miles away have also been revealed by Greater Manchester Police. One told his family, a month before the fire, that he was living in 'an abandoned house' as he looked for work.
Another told a relative in a phone call home just days before the fire broke out that he was staying in 'a derelict house in Dam' - believed to be a reference to Oldham - as he, too, looked for work.
After the blaze broke out at Bismark House Mill on Bower Street, Oldham, on May 7, police confirmed a search for missing potential victims had been launched, but it wasn't until July 23 that demolition workers at the mill found human remains.
As police confirmed today that searches of the mill site remain ongoing - after eight months - all four victims were formally named by the force as Uoc Van Nguyen, 31, Cuong Van Chu, 39, Duong Van Nguyen, 29, and 21-year-old Nam Thanh Lee.
In a statement, GMP said: "Uoc maintained regular contact with his wife until the date of the fire, at which time he said he was in a mill. Cuong arrived in the UK in June 2019 - he maintained regular contact with his wife and children but they have not heard from him since Saturday 7 May 2022.
"Duong arrived in the UK approximately 12 months ago - he last contacted his family in the month before the fire at which time he said he was residing in 'an abandoned house' whilst looking for work.
"Nam arrived in the UK in January 2022 - he last contacted his family on Wednesday 4 May 2022, at which time he said he was residing in ‘a derelict house’ in ‘Dam’, believed to be Oldham, whilst looking for work."
Inquests are due to be opened and adjourned over coming weeks by a coroner, police said.
The force revealed that in early autumn, as part of Operation Logan, eight officers travelled to Vietnam to obtain statement and DNA samples, required for criminal and coronial proceedings, from 18 separate individuals across different regions of the country. The GMP investigation team also gave updates to the Vietnamese government and law enforcement agencies.
"Teams have been searching the remnants of the mill, which was subject to a fire on Saturday 7 May 2022, since demolition workers discovered human remains on Saturday 23 July 2022. The search is ongoing," added GMP in the statement on Friday.
Assistant Chief Constable Rob Potts, gold commander for Operation Logan, said a criminal investigation remained open. Two men who were subsequently arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and other offences in connection with the case remain on police bail, he added.
ACC Potts said: “The thoughts of all involved in this operation remain with these men's loved ones in Vietnam. Though we have been liaising with them for several months, this development will understandably be upsetting.
"Since the first discovery at the end of July, GMP and partner agencies have completed a huge amount of work, both at the site and behind the scenes, to enable the completion of essential oversees enquiries. The deployment to Vietnam enabled us to obtain essential statements and DNA samples, but also to meet the families face-to-face, to ensure the service they receive is not compromised by the distance between Greater Manchester and Vietnam.
"Though the identification is an important milestone for the operation, our work is far from over.
"At the site, work will continue until the search is complete. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the criminal investigation team will exhaust all lines of enquiry to ensure any criminal offences are identified and those responsible face justice.
"I would like to use this opportunity to publicly thank the local community and our partner agencies for supporting this operation. Not forgetting our officers and staff, who are leaving no stone unturned in investigating the circumstances surrounding these deaths and finding answers for the families."
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