Belfast Telegraph

Essex deaths: Stunned staff turned away as murder probe centres on cordoned-off workplaces

The container lorry where 39 people were found dead inside leaves Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex, heading towards Tilbury Docks under police escort.
The container lorry where 39 people were found dead inside leaves Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex, heading towards Tilbury Docks under police escort.

By Ellis Whitehouse

Staff turned up at Waterglade Industrial Park on Wednesday morning expecting to get on with their jobs.

Instead, many were turned away by police cordons and thick sheets blocking the entrance to their road, protecting the scene where 39 bodies were found locked in a lorry.

The murder probe, first launched at 1.40am, saw a consistently increasing police presence throughout the morning and afternoon.

By 11am, a huge crowd of media from around the world — including journalists from the USA and Japan — had descended into the small road.

Police ramped up their protection of the site, with up to 10 officers guarding the two entrances and the lorry itself, where forensic teams carried out work throughout the day.

Salman Rabesh, who works on the estate, said: “Police just directed us away, I was not able to get into work all morning.

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“The officers said ‘serious incident’ but then I saw the news.

“I don’t know what to think, it’s horrible. Awful. I don’t understand.”

Damian Jones arrived for work to see the cordon. He said: “The estate hasn’t been this busy in years. All for such an awful crime.

“I have never seen or heard of anything like it.”

Colleague Paul Wellington added: “To think the lorry may have been sitting there with all those bodies inside and many of us could have just driven by it without even knowing. It’s actually sickening. Why would anyone think people would deserve that is beyond me. Barbaric.”

The red and white lorry in question was still being examined through the afternoon and remained completely cordoned off.

The words ‘the ultimate dream’ could be seen printed on its windscreen. A worker at the Big Blue Food Bus, which operates on Eastern Avenue, said: “What’s happened was utterly horrendous. It was cordoned off when we got here to set up.

“We’ve had throngs of media come by here asking us things, and several have bought things from us, so it was a steady stream of customers.”

Glen Freeland, from GSF Car Parts which is close to where the bodies were found, said staff could not access the shop on Eastern Avenue yesterday.

He said: “The manager went to get into work this morning and it was cordoned off and we’ve been moved to a different area. All we know is they found the bodies in the back of a lorry.

“It was a bit of a shock but we’re not 100% sure of what’s happened.”

Groups of journalists were allowed past a green privacy screen to an inner police tape cordon closer to the red cab at the front of the Scania lorry shortly after 1pm.

A white forensic tent could be seen next to the cab and three police officers stood beside the closed section of road through the industrial estate.

Cordons were due to remain in place late into the night and it was not known when businesses would be allowed to reopen.

Later in the afternoon, Deputy Chief Constable for Essex Police Pippa Mills confirmed the lorry would be removed from the scene.

She stated the bodies were still inside the lorry and would not be removed until it was in a different location. Thurrock Council, the local authority for Grays, has arranged for a book of condolence to be opened for members of the public to share their sympathies.

The book will be available in the reception of the Civic Offices in Grays for two weeks.

Mayor of Thurrock Terry Piccolo said: “This is a tragic incident and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those who lost their lives in this terrible way. Thurrock Council will do all it can to assist Essex Police as their investigation continues.”

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