Thirty nine people, including a teenager, were found dead in a lorry container in Essex county in the United Kingdom on Wednesday morning, BBC reported. Ambulance services called the police a little before 1.40 am (6.10 am Indian Standard Time) on Wednesday.
The lorry driver, a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland, has been arrested on suspicion of murder. No survivors were found in the vehicle, which entered the Welsh town of Holyhead in the Isle of Anglesey on Saturday from Bulgaria, according to the police.
Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills said identifying the victims was the police’s “number one priority”. She appealed to anyone who might have seen the route the lorry took, or anyone who knew about its journey, to inform the police.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the incident an “unimaginable tragedy and truly heartbreaking”. “I know that the thoughts and prayers of all members will be with those who lost their lives and their loved ones,” he said. “I am receiving regular updates. The Home Office will work closely with Essex Police as we establish exactly what has happened.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel said Home Office immigration officials were working closely with the police to work out what happened, The Guardian reported. The National Crime Agency said it was looking into whether organised crime groups might have played a role in the deaths.
“We have arrested the lorry driver in connection with the incident who remains in police custody as our inquiries continue,” said Essex Police Chief Superintendent Andrew Mariner said. “I appreciate this cordon is going to disrupt the activity of local businesses in the area and we will work to ensure that disruption is kept as short as possible.”
Richard Burnett, the chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, pointed to the possibility of migrant gangs smuggling people on the route taken by the lorry. “It’s highly unlikely that if this vehicle has come from [Eastern] Europe that it’s been physically checked,” he added. “Because of the migrant issue at Dover and Calais, you have got far more checks.”
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