Process to identify 39 people found dead in lorry container under way; Driver (25) from Armagh arrested

The lorry driver arrested in connection with the discovery of 39 bodies in a lorry container in Essex, England has been named in reports as Mo Robinson from Portadown in Co Armagh.

Process to identify 39 people found dead in lorry container under way; Driver (25) from Armagh arrested

  • The truck in which 39 people were found dead in Essex in the UK is now thought to have arrived in the country from Zeebrugge, in Belgium, and is understood not to have travelled through the Republic of Ireland.
  • The lorry driver - a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland - has been arrested in connection with the investigation, and is police custody. He has been named in reports as Mo Robinson from Portadown in Co Armagh.
  • The Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Scania lorry was registered in Varna, a city on the east coast of the country, under the name of a company owned by an Irish citizen.
  • The tractor unit of the lorry is believed to have originated in Northern Ireland.
  • Ambulance staff found all 39 victims, including a teenager, dead inside the container. The other 38 victims were all adults.
  • The process to identify the 39 people is under way.
  • A road haulage expert said the lorry container appeared to be a refrigerated unit, with temperatures inside able to drop as low as -25C.

Update - 10.02pm: The process to identify the 39 people who were found dead in the back of a lorry in Essex is under way.

The group of people, including one teenager, were discovered this morning in Grays in a trailer which had come from Belgium.

25-year-old Mo Robinson from Portadown in Co Armagh remains in custody in connection with the investigation.

Update - 6.21pm: The lorry driver arrested in connection with the discovery of 39 bodies in a lorry container in Essex, England has been named in reports as Mo Robinson from Portadown in Co Armagh. Media reports say he may have picked up the container just minutes before police raided the lorry, and found the 39 bodies inside.

The lorry trailer is believed to have travelled from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Purfleet, Essex, and docked in the Thurrock area shortly after 12:30am on Wednesday. A freight ferry service runs from Zeebrugge to Purfleet.

The Irish Department of Justice and Equality said they are aware of the “tragic reports” from England, but added that the container did not pass through Ireland.

“Police inquiries in the UK have identified that the container did not pass through Ireland (as per the statement issued by Essex Police),” a spokesman said.

“It is understood that the container was collected in the United Kingdom by a truck cab which had come from Ireland.

“An Garda Síochána and the Irish authorities remain willing to assist in any further investigations in regard to the matter.”

EARLIER:

The trailer in which 39 people were found dead in Essex in the UK today is now thought to have arrived in the country from Zeebrugge, in Belgium, police said.

An Essex Police statement said: “Our detectives are continuing their investigation into the events in Grays this morning, Wednesday 23 October.

“We were called shortly after 1.40am by our colleagues in the East of England Ambulance Service to reports that, sadly, 39 people had been discovered dead in the container of a lorry at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Eastern Avenue.

“Originally, we reported that the lorry had travelled into the country through Holyhead on Saturday 19 October.

After further enquiries, we now believe that the trailer travelled from Zeebrugge into Purfleet, and docked in the Thurrock area shortly after 12:30am this morning. The tractor unit of the lorry is believed to have originated in Northern Ireland.

“We believe the lorry and trailer left the port shortly after 1.05am. The driver of the lorry, a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland, remains in custody having been arrested on suspicion of murder.

“A cordon has remained in place at Eastern Avenue for most of the day and this remains in place. We thank everyone in the area, especially residents and local businesses, for their patience and compassion throughout the day.

This will be a lengthy and complex investigation and we continue to work with local partners and international authorities to gather vital intelligence and identify those who have sadly died.

The Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Scania lorry was registered in Varna, a city on the east coast of the country, under the name of a company owned by an Irish citizen. The ministry added that police said it is “highly unlikely” the victims are Bulgarians.

Essex Police said emergency services were called to the Waterglade Industrial Park at around 1.40am after the container was found with people inside.

All 39 people were pronounced dead at the scene. UK Police said it appears that 38 were adults and one was aged in their teens.

A road haulage expert said the lorry container appeared to be a refrigerated unit, with temperatures inside able to drop as low as -25C.

Essex Police will shortly be moving the trailer and lorry to a secure location.

Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills said: “We have been progressing our investigations at the scene here in Grays throughout the day.

“In order to ensure we maintain the dignity of the people who sadly lost their lives, we will be moving the lorry and the trailer shortly.

“Once that movement has happened we will remain here to complete some scene examinations before we can allow all the business operators back to their premises.”

Ms Mills continued: “This matter has attracted national and international interest and it is absolutely imperative that the operation is conducted with the utmost respect for the 39 people who have lost their lives.

“The lorry and the trailer will be moved to a secure location, Tilbury Docks, so the bodies can be recovered while preserving the dignity of the victims. We are yet to identify them and must manage this sensitively with their families.”

Commenting on the discovery of the truck, the Irish Refugee Council said: "If this needless loss of human life is connected to forced migration, it brings into sharp focus the desperate need for safe and legal pathways to protection and migration.

"Since 2014, 18,898 deaths were registered in the Mediterranean alone. It continues to be the most dangerous crossing in the world. It is very likely that countless other, unrecorded lives have been lost as Europe focuses on stemming migration flows.

While Ireland has taken steps to develop safe and legal pathways to protection, it and other European countries, can do more.

"Humanitarian visa and admission programmes, an increase in the numbers committed to under the EU relocation and resettlement schemes, fair family reunification processes, and other legal channels of migration such as student visas and work permits, would ensure that men, women and children are not putting their lives at risk to reach Europe, a place they perceive to be safe and free from violence, a place where their rights should be protected."

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