How lorry tragedy near Dartford Crossing echoes horrific discovery made in Dover

The discovery of 39 bodies in the back of a lorry near the Dartford Crossing is devastating. Eight women and 31 men, all from China, were found inside the vehicle at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex shortly before 1.40am yesterday (October 23). They were pronounced dead at the scene just a few miles away from the M25 and intu Lakeside shopping centre.

And the incident is reminiscent of a shocking mass death tragedy in Dover 19 years ago. Latest police update over murder investigation after 39 bodies found in lorry near Dartford Crossing Both cases have resulted in a huge loss of life inside a lorry trailer and the victims in each incident are Chinese nationals.

The lorry, still containing all 39 bodies, has been transported to Tilbury Docks for further investigation and identification of the victims

Just before midnight on June 18, 2000, 60 illegal immigrants were found unconscious inside a lorry that had arrived at the Port of Dover.

Two men were still alive and they were taken to hospital where they were treated and survived – the remaining 58 were already dead. The lorry was a sealed, airless container and an inquest heard how the immigrants banged frantically on the inside of the container as their air supply ran out. They had been trapped inside for more than 18 hours.

How lorry tragedy near Dartford Crossing echoes horrific discovery made in Dover58 asylum seekers were found dead in the back of this lorry in 2000

Post-mortem examinations confirmed their deaths were due to respiratory failure through asphyxiation, though carbon monoxide poisoning was not ruled out.

A major crackdown on stowaways was launched following the incident. Driver of the lorry, Perry Wacker, from the Netherlands, was jailed for 14 years in April 2001 for the manslaughter of the immigrants, who had paid a criminal gang thousands to be smuggled into the UK. In 2003, nine Chinese gang members were jailed in the Netherlands for their part in the tragedy.

How lorry tragedy near Dartford Crossing echoes horrific discovery made in DoverLorry driver Perry Wacker was jailed for 14 years for manslaughter

Coroner’s officer Graham Perrin said a vent at the side of the refrigeration container had been closed before the lorry went on to a ferry at Zeebrugge, shutting off the air supply to those trapped inside.

He said the two survivors, who were found unconscious by customs officers, survived because more air became available inside the container with the death of each occupant. The incident was one of the largest mass killings in British criminal history. Out of the 58 killed, 54 were young men and four young women.

Although there have so far been few official details regarding what led to the deaths of the 39 Chinese nationals in Grays yesterday morning (October 23), the likely cause is horrifying. Experts say the trailer looked to be a refrigerator unit, suggesting they could have frozen to death. Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett said yesterday the conditions for anyone inside a chiller truck would be “absolutely horrendous”.

‘Incredibly cold’

How lorry tragedy near Dartford Crossing echoes horrific discovery made in DoverPolice are investigating after 39 people were found dead in the back of a lorry near the Dartford Crossing

He explained that temperatures in refrigerator units can be as low as -25C if frozen products are being transported, causing humans to “lose their lives pretty quickly”.

He said: “It’s going to be dark. If the fridge is running it’s going to be incredibly cold. “The only place to go to the toilet is on board the back of the trailer.

You can imagine if they’ve been in there for days then there will be faeces, there will be urine.”

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