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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Paul Britton

Search of derelict mill where remains of four Vietnamese men found ends after six months

A painstaking search of a derelict mill Oldham where the partial remains of four Vietnamese men were found has now ended after almost six months, police have revealed.

Detectives said they were 'satisfied there is no realistic prospect of recovering any further human remains or objects of significance' at the site.

After the blaze broke out at Bismark House Mill on Bower Street, Oldham, on May 7 last year, 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.

The men have now been formally named as Uoc Van Nguyen, 31, Cuong Van Chu, 39, Duong Van Nguyen, 29, and 21-year-old Nam Thanh Lee. Inquests into their deaths have opened and the Manchester Evening News revealed in December last year police believe they are likely to have been victims of modern-day slavery.

Greater Manchester Police said in a statement today that although the search of the site has now ended, a criminal investigation remains open. Two men who were arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and other offences in connection with the case were released on bail last year. The force has since been granted a bail extension as they work to piece together the evidence.

The tragic victims (GMP)

Detectives revealed 4,500 tonnes of rubble was sifted during the search of the old mill site.

Detective Superintendent Lewis Hughes, GMP's lead on disaster victim identification, said: "The search has been comprehensive and we are now satisfied that there is no realistic prospect of recovering any further human remains or objects of significance from the site.

"This was a really important piece of work, not just for criminal proceedings, but for the families in Vietnam who have been left devastated by the deaths of their loved ones and desperately want to be reunited with their remains and, in some cases, sentimental items.

"Though the search has now concluded and our presence at Bismark House has now come to an end, Operation Logan is ongoing. Our team is continuing to work with the family liaison officers and relevant partner agencies to make arrangements to return the four victims to their native Vietnam.

"Meanwhile, our criminal investigation team is still following lines of enquiry to ensure any offences are identified and those responsible are brought to face justice."

The search operation drew in specialist support from multiple agencies and experts.

Specialist search teams were involved (Kenny Brown | Manchester Evening News)

Det Supt Hughes added: "I would like to use this opportunity to thank the local community and our partner agencies for their cooperation and patience with this investigation. I'd also like to publicly recognise the Operation Logan scene team who have worked tirelessly for half a year, in all conditions, to overcome multiple obstacles and find the answers we and the bereaved need."

The four victims were formally identified last year 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 were also 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.

In a statement at the time, 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."


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