Essex lorry deaths: police arrest Warrington couple

UK news[1]

Man and woman arrested as postmortem examinations of 39 Chinese nationals continue




Police vehicles outside the house in Warrington where the man and woman were arrested.Photograph: Warrington Guardian/SWNS

Police have arrested a married couple in Warrington as part of the investigation into the deaths of 39 people found in the back of a lorry in Essex. The man and woman, both 38 and from Warrington, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic people and on suspicion of 39 counts of manslaughter, Essex police said. The arrests at 5am on Friday followed raids at addresses in Cheshire.

The 25-year-old driver of the lorry, named as Mo Robinson, from Northern Ireland, was arrested in the early hours of Wednesday and remains in custody. Bulgarian TV has named Joanna Maher, 38, from Warrington, as an owner of the Scania lorry cab at the centre of the investigation. She and her husband, Thomas, also 38, who is reportedly a haulage boss, told reporters they had owned the cab but sold it 13 months ago to a company in County Monaghan, near where Robinson lives.

Detectives from Cheshire police were searching a house in the Woolston area of Warrington on Friday where the couple and their three children have lived for the last two years.

Map[2]

Police cars and vans came and went from the detached property throughout the morning and plainclothes officers were seen entering the house carrying boxes. Two grey Range Rover Discoverys with matching personalised number plates and a white Chevrolet sports car were parked on the drive. The Mahers told reporters on Thursday night that they had sold the cab and felt disgust and shock at the fate of the migrants.

The couple, who have not been seen since, were described by neighbours as “just another normal family”.. One neighbour who did not want to be named said: “We have a friendly, neighbourly relationship. Both Thomas and Joanne are very approachable.

I am very shocked but we don’t know the truth of it all yet. I know that Joanne has said that she sold the cab, so who knows?” The couple are believed to own at least two small businesses in the Warrington area and previously lived in a more modest house about two miles away.

The route undertaken by the lorry trailer will be one of the key priorities of the cross-border investigation. The trailer was leased from one Irish company, the Monaghan-based Global Trailer Rental Europe, on 15 October to another business on the Irish border. It was the first time the second business had made such a leasing arrangement.

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Essex police bow heads as lorry containing 39 dead people is moved – video

Sources have said GPS data from the refrigerated unit[3] shows that it left Monaghan on 15 October and crossed into Northern Ireland and then back south into Ireland.

It then travelled from Dublin port to Holyhead in north Wales overnight on 16 October, and crossed to mainland Europe that evening. The trailer travelled to Dunkirk and Lille in France, and Bruges in Belgium. Dunkirk is a 40-minute drive from Calais and is a known site for people smugglers preying on migrants seeking to cross the Channel to the UK.

The data from the tracking device, which has been passed on to Essex police investigating the deaths, also shows the trailer made two journeys between the UK and mainland Europe between 17 and 22 October. On Thursday, police officers began moving the victims from the port of Tilbury to the mortuary at Broomfield hospital in Chelmsford. The first postmortem examinations were to start on Friday.

The force said: “Formal identification will then follow the coronial process and will be a lengthy but crucial part of this investigation.

As our investigations continue, the picture may change regarding identification, and we will continue to provide updates when appropriate under the direction of HM coroner.”

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References

  1. ^ UK news (www.theguardian.com)
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  3. ^ GPS data from the refrigerated unit (www.theguardian.com)
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