Family pay tribute to man killed in Oldham mill fire after inquests opened

The devastated family of a man whose remains were discovered following a mill fire in Oldham have paid tribute to him.

Cuong Van Chu was one of four Vietnamese men whose partial remains were recovered from the Bismark House Mill on Bower Street. A blaze tore through the derelict mill on May 7, before demolition workers uncovered human remains on July 23.

Uoc Van Nguyen, Duong Van Nguyen and Nam Thanh Lee have all also been formally identified as being victims. Following the opening of their inquests at Rochdale Coroners’ Court, Cuong’s family paid tribute to him.

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In a statement issued through Greater Manchester Police, they said: “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”.

Over a series of hearings last Thursday (December 1), Greater Manchester Police explained how detectives had been able to identify three of the men by travelling to Vietnam before matching DNA from the remains to their grieving relatives. An inquest into Cuong’s death had been opened by coroner Joanne Kearsley back in August as an unidentified person at the time.

Police were then able to take DNA from fragments of the married 39-year-old’s right thigh, before matching it with his parents. Ms Kearsley then opened the inquests of Nam 21, and Duong, 29.

Police discovered the remains of leg bones belonging to Nam, while officers found the skull and teeth of Duong. Officers were able to take the DNA and match it with their parents.

The four men identified from the remains found after the fire. Clockwise from top left: Uoc Van Nguyen; Nam Thanh Le; Cuong Van Chu; Duong Van Nguyen
(Image: MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS)

Nam, from the Yên Thành district, had no fixed address in the UK and his occupation was unknown. Duong, from the Nghe An region of Vietnam, was last known to be a rice farmer.

Both men were single. Uoc, from Nghe An, was the first man to be identified from the scene.

An inquest into the death of the married 31-year-old, who was previously a farmer, was opened in August after specialist officers had matched his fingerprints with an immigration and asylum database. It is not believed the remains of further people will be found from the site, although officers are keeping an open mind, the court heard today.

A criminal investigation is ongoing and police are still searching the area for evidence. In a statement issued last month, GMP revealed the heartbreaking details of the last conversations the men had with their families more than 6,000 miles away.

A spokesperson for the force 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, May 7 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, May 4 2022, at which time he said he was residing in ‘a derelict house’ in ‘Dam’, believed to be Oldham, whilst looking for work.”

Two men who were subsequently arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and other offences in connection with the case were released on bail. The criminal investigation remains open.

Anyone with information should contact Greater Manchester Police via 101. In an emergency, always dial 999. International callers can contact GMP via +441618725050. Information can also be submitted in English or Vietnamese via the Major Incident Public Portal: Public Portal (mipp.police.uk)

Anyone who would like to remain anonymous can share information via the independent charity – Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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Manchester Evening News – Oldham