A murder investigation has been launched after the gruesome discovery of 39 dead bodies in a truck container in Essex, southeast England, early Wednesday morning.
This is one of the UK's biggest ever murder probes. One of the victims was a teenager. A 25-year-old driver, from Northern Ireland, has been arrested on suspicion of murder.
The truck is believed to be from Bulgaria but entered the country in Holyhead, a Welsh port town that serves Ireland.
The truck was discovered at an industrial park.
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.
"We believe the lorry is from Bulgaria and entered the country at Holyhead on Saturday 19 October and we are working closely with our partners to investigate.
"We have arrested the lorry driver in connection with the incident who remains in police custody as our enquiries continue. I appreciate this cordon is going to disrupt the activity of local businesses in the area and we will work to ensure that disruption is kept as short as possible. We are working with Thurrock Council to mitigate against any impact our investigation scene will have locally."
Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills released this statement:
Shortly before 1.40am today we received reports that a number of people had been found inside a lorry's container at the Waterglade Industrial Park on Eastern Avenue in Grays. We believe the lorry is from Bulgaria and came in to the UK through Holyhead on the 19th of October.
Emergency services attended but sadly all 39 people inside the container had died. Early indications suggest that one of these people was a teenager, the rest are believed to be adults.
“A murder investigation was launched and the lorry driver, a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland, was arrested on suspicion of murder and remains in police custody.
“At this stage we have not identified where the victims are from or their identities, and we anticipate that this could be a lengthy process.
“I would like to thank the local community and in particular those who have been directly affected by the police cordon at the industrial site.
“Thank you for your cooperation. I appreciate the impact the road closure will have on businesses within the cordon.
“I’m unable to say at this stage how long the cordon will be in place but please let me reassure you that my officers and partners will be doing everything they can to release the scene as soon as possible.
“This is an absolute tragedy and very sad day for Essex Police and the local community. We will continue to work alongside many other partner agencies to find out what led to these deaths.
“I would like to appeal for anyone who has any information to contact my officers at the Major Investigation Team on 101 or visit our website. We will update all of our channels as we are able to, but please appreciate we are in the early stages of what is likely to be a lengthy investigation.”
The home secretary, Priti Patel, said Home Office immigration officials are working with the police to establish what happened, while the National Crime Agency (NCA), who investigate organised immigration crime as well as human trafficking, said it was looking into whether organised crime groups might have played a role in the tragedy.
Police have set up a casualty bureau for people to call if they are concerned about relatives following the incident .
The Casualty Bureau Numbers are 0800 056 0944 for callers living in the UK, or 0207 158 0010 for callers dialling from outside the UK.