39 dead bodies are found in lorry container in Thurrock, Essex

Horror as THIRTY-NINE bodies – including one teenager – are found in a lorry container in Essex four days after it entered UK as driver, 25, from Northern Ireland is arrested in one of Britain’s biggest-ever murder probes

  • Police found 39 people dead inside a lorry container in Essex early this morning
  • It is thought the lorry is originally from Bulgaria and entered Britain at Holyhead
  • The lorry’s driver, a 25-year-old from Northern Ireland, has been arrested
  • Truck entered the UK on Saturday, suggesting victims were inside for four days

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Police have launched one of the UK’s biggest ever murder probes after the bodies of 39 people, including one teenager, were found in the back of a lorry in Essex. 

An ambulance crew made the horrific discovery after they were called to the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays in the early hours of this morning.

None of those inside the lorry were able to be saved and police later arrived and cordoned off the scene, which is near the Dartford Crossing. 

The lorry is originally from Bulgaria and had entered the UK at the Welsh port of Holyhead, Wales, where ferries arrive from Ireland. It has been suggested that those on board may have been trying to get into Britain through the ‘weak point’ of Ireland.

The lorry’s driver, a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland, has been arrested on suspicion of murder.

Police have not said where the people who died are from or where they were thought to be travelling to.

Police have found 39 dead bodies in the back of a lorry container on an Essex industrial estate

39 dead bodies are found in lorry container in Thurrock, Essex

Aerial pictures show screens have been put around the back of the white lorry, with forensics tents placed nearby

39 dead bodies are found in lorry container in Thurrock, Essex

Police in forensics suits were seen worked on the cab end of the lorry, which is said to have originated in Bulgaria. It is not known where those found inside got in

Police said it may take a long time to identify those found inside. The truck driver is currently being questioned by detectives. 

The fact that the lorry arrived at Holyhead on Saturday suggests those who died may have been in the back of the vehicle for at least four days.

A member of the Freight Transport Association (FTA) said the lorry could have got a ferry from France to Ireland, then driven through Ireland before boarding another boat to Britain.

Seamus Leheny said: ‘If the lorry came from Bulgaria, getting into Britain via Holyhead is an unorthodox route.

‘People have been saying that security and checks have been increased at places like Dover and Calais, so it might be seen as an easier way to get in by going from Cherbourg or Roscoff, over to Rosslare, then up the road to Dublin.

It’s a long way around and it’ll add an extra day to the journey.’

It is the biggest disaster of its kind since 2000, when 58 Chinese stowaways died on a ferry from Belgium to Britain.

Today’s tragedy has claimed more victims than the Manchester Arena bombing, in which 22 were killed. 

Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Society, added ‘this tragedy highlights the danger of migrant gangs people-smuggling on lorries’.   

39 dead bodies are found in lorry container in Thurrock, Essex

The police have cordoned off the lorry while forensics experts gather evidence from the lorry

39 dead bodies are found in lorry container in Thurrock, Essex

Large screens have been put up around the lorry while the murder investigation takes place

39 dead bodies are found in lorry container in Thurrock, Essex

It is known the lorry had originally come from Bulgaria and entered the UK in Holyhead on Saturday

39 dead bodies are found in lorry container in Thurrock, Essex

It has been suggested the lorry may have taken a roundabout route through southern Ireland to Dublin, then on a ferry to north Wales

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he is ‘appalled’ by the tragedy and that his thoughts are with those who lost their lives and their loved ones.  

He tweeted: ‘I’m appalled by this tragic incident in Essex. I am receiving regular updates and the Home Office will work closely with Essex Police as we establish exactly what has happened. My thoughts are with all those who lost their lives & their loved ones.’

The industrial estate is next to the Dartford Crossing and is used as a stopping point for lorries travelling south to the Port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel, although the planned route of the lorry involved is unknown. 

A restaurant worker in the industrial estate, who did not want to be named, said the area was cordoned off by police this morning.

‘There’s a lot of police and forensics,’ the Big Blue Food Bus employee said. ‘We’ve just seen what has been said online.

It’s awful. We thought maybe someone had broken into a lorry, but it’s just awful.’

‘People trafficking is a vile and dangerous business. This is a big investigation for Essex Police.

Let’s hope they bring these murderers to justice.’

39 dead bodies are found in lorry container in Thurrock, Essex

Police have not revealed where they believe the people had travelled from.

They say it may take a long time to identify them all

39 dead bodies are found in lorry container in Thurrock, Essex

Police and emergency services were called to the estate last night.

They were unable to save any of those found in the container

39 dead bodies are found in lorry container in Thurrock, Essex 39 dead bodies are found in lorry container in Thurrock, Essex 39 dead bodies are found in lorry container in Thurrock, Essex

The Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and the local MP have all stated their concern

The migrant route to the UK through Ireland 

Authorities were warned last year that people smugglers saw the Irish border as a weak point in the UK border and were taking migrants to Ireland before transporting them to Britain.

Traffickers see the Irish border as a weak point to get people in Britain, it emerged last year.

An Iranian man told the BBC how he was flown to Dublin, where there are deemed to be fewer and less rigorous checks, on a false passport, before being transported on to London.

An investigation found that, after getting to Ireland, migrants were being taken to Belfast and onto a ferry to Glasgow. 

Migrants were being charged GBP10,000 each to make the whole journey.

The Irish border is more than 300 miles long with around 275 crossing points. 

It is not known what happened in the current case.

Chief Superintendent Andrew Mariner said: ‘This is a tragic incident where a large number of people have lost their lives. Our enquiries are ongoing to establish what has happened.

‘We are in the process of identifying the victims, however I anticipate that this could be a lengthy process.

‘We believe the lorry is from Bulgaria and entered the country at Holyhead on Saturday, October 19 and we are working closely with our partners to investigate.

‘We have arrested the lorry driver in connection with the incident who remains in police custody as our enquiries continue.’ 

The investigation will now try to work out where the people came from and what route they had taken to get to the UK. 

Local resident Paige Wade was driving past the industrial park at 4.15am on the way home from work.

She said: ‘I had just finished work while driving up Motherwell Way and all you could see was blue flashing lights, as I was driving past there was police tape to cordon off the start of eastern avenue.

‘I knew it was serious because of how many police cars and ambulances were there, but the police had parked their cars across the whole access of the road so you couldn’t see anything.

‘There’s always lorries around there as they park up there for the night, I couldn’t say whether I did or didn’t see the actual lorry in question.’

39 dead bodies are found in lorry container in Thurrock, Essex

The lorry is understood to have entered the UK at Holyhead, from where ferries arrive from Ireland, on Saturday 

The worst disaster since 58 were killed in tomato lorry in Kent 

Today’s incident in Essex has chilling echoes of a tragedy 19 years ago in Kent in which 58 Chinese stowaways died on the way from Belgium to Britain.

Customs officers discovered the bodies of 54 men and four women in the back of a tomato lorry which arrived in Dover on June 18, 2000.

The migrants had suffocated after their air vent was closed. Driver Perry Wacker was later jailed for 14 years for manslaughter.

39 dead bodies are found in lorry container in Thurrock, Essex

A total of 58 Chinese migrants were killed in 2000 when they suffocated in the back of a tomato lorry arriving at the Port of Dover (pictured)

He had shut the trailer’s air vent because he was worried about noise alerting Customs.

Detectives believe Wacker would have received around GBP300 for each immigrant.

In August 2014, 36 Afghan Sikhs, including 15 children, were found inside a shipping container at Tilbury Docks in Essex, close to today’s incident.

One man in the container, Meet Singh Kapoor, 40, died during an overnight crossing from Belgium.

Police said the group, who were part of the Sikh minority in their home country and were fleeing persecution there, had suffered a ‘horrendous ordeal’.

39 dead bodies are found in lorry container in Thurrock, Essex

A Daily Mail front page from the tragedy in Dover in June 2000

In 2016, two human traffickers were jailed for 17 years after being convicted at Basildon Crown Court of conspiracy to facilitate illegal entry into the UK.

Two human traffickers have been jailed for 17 years after a man fleeing radical Islam died in a shipping container crammed with 34 other asylum seekers.

Stephen McLaughlin, 49, and Martin McGlinchey, 36, were sentenced after the court heard Mr Kapoor’s family were forced to watch him die of natural causes.

In October 2001, a vanload of 26 Sri Lankan refugees were found near to suffocation at Dover Docks after crossing from Calais in a van on a ferry.

The group, three of them women, were suffering from dehydration and the effects of breathing in fumes when they were discovered by Customs inspectors.

Police said at the time: ‘They had very little air left and time was running out for them.

If it had been a little while later they were found, they may not have been alive.’

 

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