Police given extra 24 hours to question lorry deaths suspect as bodies confirmed to be Chinese nationals

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer

Police have been given another 24 hours to quiz the suspect in the Essex lorry death, as it was confirmed that the 39 people discovered dead inside a trailer were all Chinese nationals.

Essex Police said this morning that eight of the deceased discovered in a refrigerated lorry trailer in Grays, Essex, were women and 31 were men.

The lorry driver has been named in reports as 25-year-old Mo Robinson, from Portadown, Co Armagh, while three addresses in Northern Ireland were searched overnight.

A statement from the force 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.”

The news comes as a haulage expert said those inside the trailer “had no chance of survival”.

Temperatures inside the trailer may have dropped to -25C while the suspected migrants were trapped inside, according to The Sun.

Commenting on the conditions inside the lorry, Richard Burnett, CEO of the Road Haulage Association, told The Sun: “If it’s chilled, the trailer temperature will be set to -5C, but if it’s frozen you’re talking about -25C.

“There’s little or no chance of survival if you’re in those conditions for any length of time.”

The container lorry where 39 people were found dead inside leaves Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex, heading towards Tilbury Docks under police escort (PA)
A haulage expert believes the people inside had 'no chance of survival' (PA)

Murder investigation

Mr Robinson was arrested on suspicion of murder on Wednesday after the 39 victims were discovered at Waterglade Industrial Park in Eastern Avenue in Grays.

Detectives have said the trailer containing the victims arrived at Purfleet from Zeebrugge in Belgium at around 12.30am on Wednesday and the front section to which it was attached, known as the tractor, came from Northern Ireland.

The arrested lorry driver has been named in reports as Mo Robinson (Sky News)

The lorry and trailer left the port at Purfleet shortly after 1.05am and officers were called around 30 minutes later after ambulance staff made the grim discovery.

Eric Van Duyse, a spokesman for the Belgian federal prosecutor's office, said that Brussels had started an investigation into the incident.

He added: "We have no idea at the moment how long the lorry spent in Belgium, it could be hours or days, we just don't know.”

Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills said the lorry and the container were being moved to nearby Tilbury Docks so the bodies can be recovered (PA)

Who were the victims?

Speaking on Wednesday afternoon, Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills said the lorry and the container were being moved to nearby Tilbury Docks so the bodies can be recovered while preserving the dignity of the victims.

"We are yet to identify them and must manage this sensitively with their families," she added.

The Prime Minister said the perpetrators of the crime "should be hunted down", while local MP Jackie Doyle-Price said the people smugglers responsible must be caught.

Police have said tracking route used "will be a key line of inquiry”.

Key locations in the investigations of the lorry deaths (PA)

Possible route

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”.

Police originally thought the lorry had travelled to the UK through Holyhead in north Wales on October 19 but later revealed that the trailer had come directly from the Continent.

A freight ferry service runs from Zeebrugge to Purfleet.

Security checks for people smuggling are believed to be less stringent at both ports than at Calais and Dover.

The discovery comes as the National Crime Agency said the number of migrants being smuggled into the UK in containers and lorries has risen in the last year.

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