Police are expected to question a group of immigrants who were found inside a shipping container at a busy port as they continue their investigation into how they were trafficked into the country.
Essex Police has been liaising with Interpol and other international authorities after a man died and 34 men, women and children were taken to hospital after they were rescued from a container at the Port of Tilbury.
The unit arrived in the UK from Zeebrugge in Belgium early yesterday and police are keen to track its movements before it was loaded on to the ship on mainland Europe.
Belgian authorities believe they have identified the lorry which delivered the container to Zeebrugge after scouring CCTV for clues, the BBC reported, though it is still not known where the lorry came from.
Chief Inspector Peter De Waele from the Belgian police said: “The Belgian civil police is checking all the images and my colleagues are very, very hopeful that we find the truck who put the container in Zeebrugge.
“I think it is very, very important that we have the identification of that truck and also of the driver.”
Many of those rescued have spent the night in hospital, and officials are now planning to interview them at a reception centre when they are well enough before they are referred to the UK Border Agencies.
Police said there are “language issues” and interpreters will be brought in, and that only one of those found on the container has arrived at the centre so far.
Officers said they were treating yesterday’s incident as a “homicide investigation” after the man’s death.
The immigrants, all thought to be from the Indian subcontinent, were rescued after port authorities heard banging and screaming from inside the container at around 6.30am yesterday.
One man died and the others were taken to hospital suffering from hypothermia and dehydration.
Among them were 18 who were taken to Basildon Hospital with dehydration and hypothermia, two in a serious but not life-threatening condition.
They have responded well to treatment and the 11 adults and seven children are now “medically fit enough” to be released, a hospital spokeswoman said last night.
Nine people were taken to the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, while a further seven were taken to Southend Hospital, all with the same ailments.
No information has been released about the ages of any of the people or the relationship between them.
Describing them as victims of “people trafficking”, Superintendent Trevor Roe of Essex Police said they had been in the container a “significant amount of time” and that now police were working with international agencies to establish their movements prior to arriving in the UK.
Investigators have begun tracking the movements of the container, which was one of around 50 on board the P&O Ferries commercial vessel the Norstream, and have made “good progress”, Mr Roe said, adding: “That is a key line of inquiry.”
Mr Roe said the investigation will “span a number of countries”.
He said: “It is a homicide investigation... we will be looking to see where the origin and the gangs or whoever may (be) involved in this conspiracy to bring these people in this way over to this country. Clearly we need to try and bring them to justice.”
Asked to clarify the nature of the homicide investigation, police said charges could include murder and manslaughter, although there was no suggestion anyone on the container was a suspect.
The superintendent added: “Nothing has been ruled out. We need to speak to the people in the container, where they have come from, what their motivation is and who’s involved.”