All 39 migrants found dead in back of lorry were Chinese

By Mirror | Thursday, Oct 24th 2019 at 13:15
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All 39 migrants found dead in the back of a refrigerated lorry trailer in Essex were Chinese nationals, say sources.

The bodies of 38 men and women and one teenager were discovered inside the container at an industrial estate in Grays in the early hours of Wednesday morning shortly after it arrived on a ferry from Belgium.

It is feared they all froze to death inside the trailer where temperatures are said to get as low as -25C.

Police have arrested a 25-year-old driver - named locally as Mo Robinson of Portadown, Northern Ireland - on suspicion of murder and raided two properties in Co Armagh. 

Officers have started the grim job of removing the bodies from the lorry and the painstaking task of trying to identify them.

It is believed the migrants had been inside for more than 12 hours by the time they were found dead.

All 39 were Chinese nationals, sources told PA.

Police probing one of the UK's biggest murder inquiries continued to question Robinson - whose girlfriend is said to be expecting twins - on Thursday.

Sources told the Telegraph it is "very unlikely" Robinson knew about any alleged plans to smuggle migrants into the UK.

Police were investigating a suspected Irish people-smuggling ring, the report claimed.

Robinson's friends have claimed on Facebook that he alerted the emergency services about the migrants inside the container.

A neighbour of Robinson's parents told Belfast Telegraph that the couple, from Laurelvale in Co Armagh, has flown to England from Northern Ireland to support their son.

It is believed Robinson picked up the trailer two hours before the migrants were found dead.

The trailer had entered England via a freight ferry service from Zeebrugge, Belgium, into Purfleet, Essex, on the River Thames.

Belgian authorities said the container arrived at Zeebrugge at 2.49pm local time on Tuesday and left the Belgian port the same afternoon.

The ferry docked in Essex just after 12.30am on Wednesday and the lorry left the port in Purfleet about 35 minutes later.

The tractor that hauled it away from the port had come from from Northern Ireland, according to police.

It had "Ireland" emblazoned on the windscreen along with the message "The Ultimate Dream".

The Bulgarian ministry of foreign affairs said the truck was registered in Varna in Bulgaria "under the name of a company owned by an Irish citizen".

Paramedics were alerted first after the bodies were discovered and Essex Police were notified just after 1.40am.

The migrants were found dead in the trailer at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays.

The incident has been compared to Britain's biggest illegal immigrant tragedy in which the bodies of 58 Chinese migrants were found crammed into a tomato truck at the southern port of Dover in 2000.

The vehicle had begun its journey in Zeebrugge.

Neighbours told Irish media that Robinson's parents had already travelled to England to support their son.

His father, Mark, is the manager of Laurelvale FC, a local amateur club in the Mid-Ulster Football League.

Paul Berry, a local councillor, said he spoke to Robinson's dad "a couple of times" on Wednesday before the father found out about the arrest on social media.

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