Belfast Telegraph

Deaths attack our understanding of humanity, says Essex councillor as book of condolence is opened

By Ellis Whitehouse

Councillors and police officers lined up yesterday to sign a book of condolence opened in memory of 39 people discovered dead in Grays.

After opening the book, Thurrock Council, the local authority which covers the town, promised to make a donation to the Red Cross.

Chief Inspector Claire Talbot, Essex Police's district commander for Thurrock, and superintendent Craig Saunders visited the council offices to place messages in the book.

Councillor James Halden spoke about the incident during a sombre council meeting on Wednesday evening.

Councillor Halden described the discovery as so horrific it "assaults our understanding of humanity".

"Let us be clear, this is a terrible crime and we will do whatever is needed and put in place whatever is needed to support enforcement agencies to eradicate this evil," he said.

"Thurrock Council will make a donation to the Red Cross to thank them for their help and support.

"I want to put on record my thanks to all partners.

"From health partners such as the Clinical Commissioning Group and Basildon and Broomfield hospitals, who stepped forward to support necessary arrangements for the deceased, to the businesses in Lakeside and charities who supported the men and women in our emergency services, to the council staff who ensured organisation still functioned during such a terrible situation.

"Of course, my biggest thanks go to the police.

"We see the police each and every day. However, it's only when you sit on the other end of the phone and hear them talk about the most gruesome events and approach it with such professionalism and clarity that you truly see the depth and breadth of their work.

"They saw and dealt with things today which we all have the good fortune of being kept away from. We salute them for that."

Mr Halden said that he had requested that council staff intensify their work with the Home Office to support the refugee programme.

He acknowledged the details of the incident remained vague, but said: "What is clear is that these people were indeed victims of a terrible crime".

The Right Rev John Perumbalath, Bishop of Bradwell in the Diocese of Chelmsford in Essex, also offered his condolences to the grieving families of the deceased.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with all the loved ones and families of those who lost their lives in this tragic way," the bishop 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 into a closed container.

"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 a global family, learn how to make life safer."

Essex Police said that residents and businesses in the Grays area had shown officers "the utmost kindness and respect" as they dealt with the investigation.

A spokesman for the force added: "Thank you for patience, your offers for cups of tea for our hard-working teams, for the flowers that have started to appear in Eastern Avenue and the signatures we know will appear in the book of condolence at the civic centre."

The 39 bodies were still on the lorry at the Port of Tilbury yesterday.

Eight victims were due to be moved to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford last night, but that was delayed.

Ellis Whitehouse is a senior reporter for the Thurrock Gazette and Daily Echo newspaper

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