39 found dead in lorry were ‘Chinese nationals’
- Credit: PA
Eight women and 31 men, who are believed to be Chinese nationals, were found deceased in a lorry trailer in Essex.
A murder investigation has been launched after the discovery of 39 bodies in the early hours of yesterday morning at Waterglade Industrial Park, Eastern Avenue, Grays.
Essex Police have now confirmed that 38 of the victims are believed to be adults and one is a young adult woman, all of whom are believed to be Chinese nationals.
They have also confirmed that eight of the deceased are women and 31 are men.
A spokesman for Essex Police said: "Throughout yesterday, our detectives worked with partners to conduct initial enquiries into these tragic deaths and we continue to work diligently to piece together the circumstances of this horrific event, which has led to the largest murder investigation in our force's history."
Initially Essex Police reported that the lorry had travelled into the country through Holyhead on Saturday, October 19.
After further enquires Essex Police have confirmed that the tractor unit of the lorry had entered the country via Holyhead on Sunday, October, 20, having travelled over from Dublin.
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The lorry then collected the trailer, which had travelled from Zeebrugge, at the port of Purfleet at around 12.30am on Wednesday, October 23. The cab and trailer left the port shortly after 1.05am.
Officers were called to the industrial park shortly before 1.40am by the East of England Ambulance service.
Experts have said the lorry appeared to be a refrigerated unit, where temperatures can be as low as -25C, describing conditions for anyone inside as "absolutely horrendous".
The lorry has since been moved to a secure location to allow the bodies to be recovered while preserving the dignity of the victims.
On Wednesday afternoon, Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills said: "We are yet to identify them and must manage this sensitively with their families."
Each of the 39 victims will undergo a full coroner's process to establish a cause of death before they can be identified within the trailer.
Essex Police say this will be a "substantial operation" and they cannot estimate how long this will take.
The Bishop of Bradwell, The Right Reverend John Perumbalath, said: "I can't imagine what it must have been for these members of our human family to risk their lives by choosing to get in to a closed container operated by a criminal gang. This and similar tragedies in the recent past are a symptom of a deeper problem - namely the failure of the wider human family and governments in providing safety to the most vulnerable and displaced people among us.
"I wish and pray that no one would ever have to undertake a journey to their death like this and that we, as global family, learn how to make life safer for everyone."
Officers are continuing to question a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland on suspicion of murder.
They have also searched three addresses in Northern Ireland as they continue to investigate the incident.
A spokesman for Essex Police added: "Local residents and businesses have shown us the utmost kindness and respect as we deal with this difficult and sensitive investigation.
"Thank you for patience, your offers for cups of tea for our hardworking teams, for the flowers that have started to appear in Eastern Avenue, and the signatures we know will appear in the Book of Condolences at the Civic Centre."
A cordon was in place at Eastern Avenue for most of yesterday and this remains in place today.
Essex Police are urging anyone with information to contact their Major Investigation Team on 101 or visit their website.
If you are worried about a family member, friend, or loved one call their dedicated hotline on 0800 056 0944 if you live in the UK and 0044 207 158 0010 if you're dialling internationally.