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Police start moving bodies of 39 people found dead in lorry

It is thought they were all Chinese nationals.

Police forensics officers at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex, after 39 bodies were found inside a lorry on the industrial estate (Aaron Chown/PA)
Police forensics officers at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex, after 39 bodies were found inside a lorry on the industrial estate (Aaron Chown/PA)

By Jess Glass, PA

Police officers have begun the process of moving the bodies of 39 people who were found dead in a lorry trailer.

Essex Police said the bodies of 11 victims were moved by a private ambulance from the Port of Tilbury to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford shortly before 8pm on Thursday.

It is thought that the 39 victims, eight of whom were women, were all Chinese nationals.

The bodies were discovered in the refrigerated trailer in Grays, Essex, on Wednesday shortly after 1.30am.

The lorry and trailer were previously moved from the site on the Waterglade Industrial Park in Eastern Avenue under police escort to a secure location at Tilbury Docks to allow for the bodies to be recovered.

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The lorry was taken to a secure location under police escort (Aaron Chown/PA)

Post-mortem examinations will now be carried out as the bodies are recovered as disaster victim identification procedures continue.

It is known the trailer arrived at Purfleet from Zeebrugge in Belgium at around 12.30am on Wednesday, and the front section to which it was attached, known as the tractor, came from Northern Ireland via Holyhead in North Wales on Sunday.

The lorry and trailer left the port at Purfleet shortly after 1.05am and officers were called around 30 minutes later after ambulance staff made the discovery.

Police are continuing to question a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland on suspicion of murder who has been named locally as Mo Robinson, from Portadown.

Three addresses in Northern Ireland have also been searched as part of the investigation.

The deaths follow warnings from the National Crime Agency (NCA) and Border Force about the increased risk of people-smuggling using quieter ports such as Purfleet and routes through Belgium.

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Tributes were left at the scene as a book of condolence was opened and vigil held (Aaron Chown/PA)

Essex Police Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington said he had the “utmost confidence” in his officers as the force leads its largest-ever murder investigation.

He said: “I am immensely proud of the way the county has come together in the wake of such a tragedy.

“This is the largest investigation of its kind Essex Police has ever had to conduct and it is likely to take some considerable time to come to a conclusion.”

He added: “We will conduct this investigation with respect for every single one of those people.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel held a meeting with Essex Police on Thursday morning to receive an update on the investigation.

The discovery echoes one in 2000 when the bodies of 58 Chinese illegal immigrants who had paid a criminal gang to be smuggled into the UK were found in a sealed, airless container in Dover.

Councillors in Grays have opened a book of condolence as a small crowd of people held lit candles at the front of Belfast’s City Hall as a mark of respect for those who lost their lives.

PA

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