- The discovery came hours after emergency services were alerted of the availability of ‘people’ inside a container transported by a truck.
- “This is a tragic incident in which a large number of people lost their lives,” said local police chief Andrew Mariner.
- "I’m appalled by this tragic incident in Essex," the Prime Minister tweeted.
Essex police found 39 bodies in a truck in an industrial area Wednesday in the town of Grays in Essex County. The 25-year-old driver of the truck has since been arrested on suspicion of murder.
The discovery came hours after emergency services were alerted of the availability of ‘people’ inside a container transported by a truck. Police were later notified of the discovery of the bodies in the city, 32 kilometers from London. Agents confirmed they found the bodies of 38 adults and one teenager at Waterglade Industrial Park. The site was isolated by the authorities. The driver from Northern Ireland is being interrogated by the local police.
“This is a tragic incident in which a large number of people lost their lives,” said local police chief Andrew Mariner, adding that investigations to determine what exactly transpired were ongoing. Mariner said agents are trying to identify the dead, although he warned that this process “could be time-consuming.” He added that the priority of the investigation is to find out who the victims are and to determine the route taken by the truck.
Police believe the truck is from the Belgian port city of Zeebrugge and was secretly sneaked into the UK, even though earlier reports indicated that the truck was from Bulgaria. Authorities have, in the meantime, avoided calling the incident human trafficking, but because of the way the victims were found crammed into the container, there is evidence of the crime.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was shocked by the case. “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 prime minister tweeted.
Earlier, the truck was suspected of having emerged from Bulgaria. The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry, in reaction, has said it is checking the information, and still has no way to confirm that the truck actually departed from there. Irish officials have announced that they will do the necessary investigations to clarify whether the vehicle has passed through the country.
For years, illegal immigrants have been trying to reach the United Kingdom, hidden in trucks from continental European countries. The biggest tragedy involving illegal immigrants in the region occurred in the year 2000, when British customs officials found the bodies of 58 Chinese immigrants in a truck carrying tomatoes in Dover harbor. In 2015, at the height of the migration crisis, 71 refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan were found dead in a refrigerated truck that was abandoned on a highway in Austria near the Hungarian border.