ESSEX, LONDON: The bodies of 39 people were found inside a truck container at an industrial estate in the east of London on Wednesday (Oct 23), British police said.
Police said the truck was believed to have come from Bulgaria and entered Britain on Saturday at Holyhead, a North Wales port that is a major entry point for traffic from Ireland.
Bulgaria’s foreign ministry said it could not confirm at this stage whether the truck had started its journey from the country.
“We are still checking the information, published in the British media and we’re contacting the authorities,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Tsvetana Krasteva said.
CRIME SCENE SEALED OFF
Police officers in forensic suits were on Wednesday inspecting a large white container on a red truck next to warehouses at the site. Police had sealed off the surrounding area of the industrial estate with large green barriers as they carried out their investigation.
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.”
The discovery was made in the early hours after emergency services were alerted to people in the container at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, located by the River Thames about 20 miles from central London.
The 39 victims, 38 adults and one teenager, were all pronounced dead at the scene.
BRITISH PRIME MINISTER APPALLED BY INCIDENT
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he is appalled by the incident and that he is receiving regular updates on the case.
“I am receiving regular updates and the Home Office will work closely with Essex Police as we establish exactly what has happened,” Johnson said. “My thoughts are with all those who lost their lives & their loved ones.”
“Such tragic news on loss of life,” Brandon Lewis, a junior interior minister said on Twitter. “Thoughts are with victims, their families & friends. Police are working to ensure those responsible are brought to justice.”
Britain’s interior minister Priti Patel said she was “shocked and saddened” by the news.
“Essex Police has arrested an individual and we must give them the space to conduct their investigations,” she said on Twitter.
NO CHECKS ON MOVEMENT OF GOODS BETWEEN UK, IRELAND
The UK and the Republic of Ireland are not in the European Union’s no-borders Schengen zone but have their own historic Common Travel Area, meaning there are no checks on the movement of goods or people between the two.
Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association which represents truck drivers in Britain, said: “Our thoughts are with the families of the deceased but whatever the circumstances, it highlights the danger of migrant gangs people-smuggling on lorries.”
Jackie Doyle-Price, the MP representing the local Thurrock constituency surrounding Grays, said the news was “sickening”.
“People trafficking is a vile and dangerous business,” she said.
“Let’s hope they bring these murderers to justice.”
Cases of this kind are rare in Britain.
In 2014, staff at the Tilbury container port – next to Grays – heard screaming and banging coming from inside a shipping container, and found 34 Afghan Sikhs alive inside suffering from severe dehydration, hypothermia and lack of air.
One man was found dead, having passed away during the sea crossing from Belgium.
In Britain’s biggest illegal immigrant tragedy in 2000, British customs officials found the bodies of 58 Chinese people crammed into a tomato truck at the southern port of Dover.