Police found 39 people dead inside a container
CCTV shows the moment a lorry drives through an Essex industrial estate with the bodies of 39 people in its refrigerated trailer.
Footage recorded by a business on the Waterglade Industrial Park, Thurrock shows the left-hand drive truck passing through the estate just half an hour before an ambulance crew discovered the bodies of 38 adults and a teenager in the back.
The Scania lorry is originally from Bulgaria but thought to be owned by a Northern Irishman. It had entered the UK at the Welsh port of Holyhead, where ferries arrive from Ireland, four days earlier.
The trailer is refrigerated, meaning those on board could have frozen to death while trying to get into Britain through the perceived ‘weak point’ of Ireland.
The lorry’s driver, a 25-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder
The lorry’s driver, a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland, has been arrested on suspicion of murder in what is one of Britain’s biggest ever murder investigations. Police have not said where those who died are from or where they were thought to have been traveling from and to.
The deaths will lead to renewed calls for added checks on vehicles entering Britain through so-called ‘soft spot’ ports, with Border Force resources currently focused on Dover.
This is the moment a Bulgarian-registered lorry, which is believed to be owned by a Northern Irishman, drives through an Essex indsutrial estate, half an hour before the bodies of 39 people were found in the trailer
Bulgarian authorities have said
Bulgarian authorities have said the lorry was previously registered in the Bulgarian coastal city of Varna by a company owned by an Irish woman.
Local TV channel BNR said the truck was registered in June 2017, left the next day and has not since returned.
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
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.’
A source told the Irish Daily Mirror they believed the container first arrived in Belfast, before it was taken down to Dublin and then on the ferry to Holyhead.
The lorry’s trailer is understood to be refrigerated, meaning temperatures inside could have been as low as -25C.
Describing the conditions inside, Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett said, if the was refrigerated was switched on, conditions inside would have been ‘absolutely horrendous’ and would kill anyone inside ‘pretty quickly’.
Mr Burnett added: ‘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.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said
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.’
During Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price said: ‘To put 39 people into a locked metal container shows a contempt for human life that is evil. The best thing we can do in memory of those victims is to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.’
Responding, Boris Johnson said: ‘It is hard to put ourselves in the shoes of those emergency services, as the right gentleman opposite (Jeremy Corbyn) said, as they were asked to open that container and to expose the appalling crime that had taken place.
‘I must say I do share her strong desire now for the perpetrators of that crime, and indeed all those who engage in similar activity – because we know that this trade is going on – all such traders in human beings should be hunted down and brought to justice.’
Irish premier Leo Varadkar said any necessary investigations would be undertaken if it was established the lorry had passed through Ireland.
‘The information that we have so far this morning is very sketchy but there are some reports that the truck may have passed through Ireland at some point,’ he told the Dail parliament in Dublin.
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.
In 2015, 71 migrants, including eight women and four children, were found dead in the back of a Slovakian meat lorry which was abandoned truck on an Austrian motorway.
The industrial estate where the lorry was found today is next to the Dartford Crossing and is used as a stopping point for lorries traveling south to the Port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel, although the planned route of the lorry involved is unknown.
Essex Police Chief Superintendent Andrew Mariner said
Essex Police 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.’