Police have begun the process of moving the 39 bodies from the container of a lorry found in Essex to a mortuary.
The first 11 victims are being transported under police escort by private ambulance from the Port of Tilbury to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, having left the port at 7.41pm, Essex Police said.
Essex Police Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington has said he has the “utmost confidence” in his officers as the force carries out its largest ever murder investigation into the deaths of 39 Chinese nationals.
In a statement he said: “I am immensely proud of the way the county has come together in the wake of such a tragedy.
“As the Chief Constable of Essex Police I have the utmost confidence in the dedicated women and men of this police force as we lead the murder investigation.
“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 thanked the Red Cross and Thurrock Council for providing his officers with support and also appealed for information.
And he went on: “Above all I want to express my sincere condolences to the families of the 39 people who have sadly lost their lives. We will conduct this investigation with respect for every single one of those people.
“I hope the dedication, hard work and collaboration that Essex Police and all our partners have shown so far demonstrates to people everywhere our joint commitment to the task in hand over the days, weeks, and months ahead to bring justice for the families of those who have died.”
A spokesman for Global Trailer Rentals Ltd (GTR) has confirmed that it owns the refrigerated trailer in which the 39 Chinese nationals were found dead in Essex on Wednesday.
The spokesman told to RTÉ News the trailer was leased on October 15 from Global Trailer Rentals’ yard in Co Monaghan, at a rate of €275 per week.
The company also said it had contacted the incident team at Essex Police and given them information about the person and company that leased the trailer.
According to RTÉ News, GTR said it will make the data from its tracking system available to investigating police.
The company’s directors said they are “shellshocked” at the news and “gutted” that one of their trailers had been used in such a way.
We can confirm that we have secured a warrant of further detention for a 25-year-old man being held on suspicion of murder.— Essex Police (@EssexPoliceUK) October 24, 2019
The man, a lorry driver, was arrested in #Grays and will now remain in custody for up to an additional 24 hours.
Read more: https://t.co/xV0eScfksL pic.twitter.com/eweH5J5w7y
In a statement this afternoon, GTR said it was “entirely unaware that the trailer was to be used in the manner in which it appears to have been”.
It says the company contacted Essex Police yesterday “immediately upon becoming aware that a trailer on lease from this company had been involved in this incident”.
UK police are to start the process of moving the bodies from the lorry to a mortuary.
They will be driven by private ambulance under police escort from Tilbury Docks to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford so post-mortem examinations can be carried out.
The process will begin this afternoon and it is hoped all the bodies will have been removed from the lorry by the weekend, a police spokesman said.
'Cynical, manipulative and evil': Victims of trafficking gang were all Chinese nationals
“Cynical, manipulative and evil” gangsters are using increasingly sophisticated methods of secreting migrants onto lorries to be trafficked without being noticed by drivers, hauliers have said in the wake of the Essex lorry deaths tragedy.
In a statement Essex Police said there were eight women and 31 men among the 39 people found dead in a lorry trailer in Grays, Essex, on Wednesday.
The force, which said the case is the largest murder investigation in its history, said officers believe they are all Chinese nationals.
A statement said: “Of these, 38 are believed to be adults, and one is a young adult woman. We previously reported that she may have been a teenager.
"We have since confirmed that eight of the deceased are women and 31 are men and all are believed to be Chinese nationals. We arrested a man on suspicion of murder, who remains in custody.
“We want to be clear – we have not speculated about the identity of this man, and we will not do so.
"We can confirm that three properties in County Armagh have been searched in connection with our investigation.
“The lorry has since been removed from the industrial park to allow the next stage of our investigative process to be conducted in peace, and to give the utmost dignity to those within the trailer as we prepare for a coroner’s post-mortem examination.
Each of the 39 people must undergo a full coroner’s process to establish a cause of death, before we move on to attempting to identify each individual within the trailer.
"This will be a substantial operation and, at this stage, we cannot estimate how long these procedures will take.”
The force confirmed details about the movements of the lorry’s tractor, the front part including the driver’s cab.
The statement said: “Our lines of enquiry are extensive and will be thorough. This means that we might not have all the answers straight away. We do have some key facts, which are:
“The tractor unit of the lorry had entered the country via Holyhead on Sunday 20 October, having travelled over from Dublin.
“The lorry then collected the trailer, which had travelled from Zeebrugge, at the port of Purfleet at around 12.30am on the 23 October.
"The cab and trailer left the port shortly after 1.05am.
“We were called to Waterglade Industrial Park in Eastern Avenue shortly before 1.40am on Wednesday 23 October by our colleagues in the East of England Ambulance Service to reports that 39 people had been found dead in the trailer of a lorry.”
Rod McKenzie of Britain’s Road Haulage Association urged the UK's, Ireland's and other European governments and law enforcement agencies to do more - and use more technology - to combat what he said are new trends in the global migrant crisis.
Techniques used by human-trafficking gangs in recent years - including makeshift roadblocks to slow cross-channel lorries and threatening drivers with violence to allow migrants on board - are being forsaken for more advanced methods, according to the freight companies representative.
“Now we are seeing a trend of greater sophistication,” he said.
“The back hinges of lorries are removed, so the whole door comes off. Migrants are then put on board and then the hinges are screwed up again, all without the driver’s knowledge - perhaps while he is asleep or through some other circumstances.”
Mr McKenzie said when drivers do their regular “walk-around” checks of their lorry “there won’t be any obvious evidence of tampering of the locks, the classic thing of the locks being jemmied open.”
“It is often not that obvious, when the driver does a walk-around, you can't see that something untoward has happened,” he said.
Mr McKenzie said “most drivers are extremely diligent about doing walk-around checks and flagging to authorities if they believe something untoward has happened.”
“But what they need, apart from that daily walk-around, is support from the authorities, from law enforcement agencies, who need to be much more thorough, to use more technology to catch the migrant gangs - not the migrants themselves, who are desperate people, obviously at the end of this chain - but the migrant gangs who are cynical, manipulative and evil people, who are using increasingly sophisticated methods,” he said.
“We also need governments - not just the UK government or Dublin but also continental governments - to take this matter more seriously and deal with the problem of migrants coming in from North Africa, the Middle East and other areas, often desperate, often prepared to do anything, and being manipulated by these highly sophisticated, evil gang-masters.”
Mr McKenzie told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke that he also believed gangs were using ports with less rigorous security to traffic migrants.
Where authorities in Calais in France are using “more sophisticated, more technological solutions” including heat sensors, CO2 monitors and sniffer dogs, other port authorities are not, he said.
“That has opened opportunities at perhaps less guarded ports like Zeebrugge, and that is how this kind of situation has developed,” he said.
The trailer that the 39 bodies were found in was carried on a sailing that arrived from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Purfleet in Essex late on Tuesday.
“My understanding is that the security, the technological options, at Zeebrugge for the authorities are less rigorous,” said Mr McKenzie.