39 Dead People Found In UK Truck Were Chinese – Says Police

British police officers work near a lorry, found to be containing 39 dead Chinese bodies, as they work inside a police cordon at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, east of London, on 23 October 2019.
British police officers work near a lorry, found to be containing 39 dead bodies, as they work inside a police cordon at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, east of London, on 23 October 2019. Picture: AFP.

All the 39 people found dead in a lorry to the east of London are believed to be Chinese, British police said on Thursday, adding that raids had been carried out at three properties in Northern Ireland.

“We have since confirmed that eight of the deceased are women and 31 are men and all are believed to be Chinese nationals,” British police said in a statement.

Police also said they had arrested the driver, a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland, on suspicion of murder.

The discovery of the bodies – 38 adults and one teenager – was made in the early hours after emergency services were alerted to people in a truck container on an industrial site in Grays, about 32km east of central London.

Police said the trailer had arrived at nearby docks having travelled from Zeebrugge in Belgium and the bodies were found just over an hour later.

The red cab unit of the truck was believed to have originated in Ireland. It had “Ireland” emblazoned on the windscreen along with the message “The Ultimate Dream”. The driver, a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland, remained in custody.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was appalled by the news and was receiving regular updates about the investigation which was focussed on human trafficking.

“We know that this trade is going on – all such traders in human beings should be hunted down and brought to justice,” he said.

All those in the container were pronounced dead at the scene after the emergency services were called to the Waterglade Industrial Park, not far from docks on the River Thames.

Police said the trailer had travelled from Belgium to Purfleet and landed shortly after 12.30 a.m. on Wednesday. It left the port on the truck at about 1.05 a.m. and ambulance services notified police about the discovery of the bodies at 1.40 a.m.

Originally it was thought both parts of the vehicle had entered Britain at Holyhead in North Wales on Saturday and to have originally started its journey in Bulgaria.

The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said while the vehicle was registered in Bulgaria by a company owned by an Irish woman on 19 June 2017, it had left the next day and never returned.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said his country had no other connection with the deaths.

For years, illegal immigrants have attempted to reach Britain stowed away in the back of trucks, often seeking to reach the United Kingdom from the European mainland.

Separately on Wednesday, police in the neighbouring county of Kent found nine people alive in a truck on the M20 motorway, heading towards London, Sky News reported.

In Britain’s biggest illegal immigrant tragedy in 2000, customs officials found the bodies of 58 Chinese people crammed into a tomato truck at the southern port of Dover. It had begun its journey in Zeebrugge.

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, said the latest deaths were an unbelievable human tragedy that needed answers.

“Can we just think for a moment of what it must have been like for those 39 people, obviously in a desperate and dangerous situation, for their lives to end, suffocated to death in a container,” he said.

Reuters