Essex lorry deaths: truck and trailer met only one hour before alarm raised

The truck of a Co Armagh man and the trailer in which 39 people were found dead in Essex only met just over an hour before the authorities were alerted to the tragedy, it is reported.

Thursday, 31st October 2019, 1:15 pm
THURROCK, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 23: Police and forensic officers investigate the site where 39 bodies were discovered in the back of a lorry on October 23, 2019 in Thurrock, England. The lorry was discovered early Wednesday morning in Waterglade Industrial Park on Eastern Avenue in the town of Grays. Authorities said they believed the lorry originated in Bulgaria and entered the country at Holyhead on October 19. The suspected driver was arrested in connection with the investigation. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Police began an international manhunt for a people trafficking network on Wednesday after the bodies of 39 people were found in a refrigerated lorry container on an industrial estate in Essex. They said the route of the vehicle “will be a key line of inquiry”.

A 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland, believed to have been the driver of the lorry, has been arrested on suspicion of murder. The man, believed to be from the Portadown area, was arrested shortly after paramedics made the grim discovery.

The trail of the lorry’s journey leads to Bulgaria via Belgium. The red and white Scania truck was registered in Varna, on the east coast of Bulgaria, under the name of a company owned by a female Irish citizen. It was carrying a rented Irish container from a firm called GTR.

GTR confirmed that the refrigerated trailer was rented on 15 October from its site in Co Monaghan. The company said it was co-operating fully with the UK police.

A spokesman said it was “gutted the trailer had been used in this way”.

The white trailer in which the bodies were discovered is thought to have arrived in the country from Zeebrugge, in Belgium, into Purfleet, on the river Thames, and docked in the Thurrock area shortly after 12:30am on Wednesday morning, police said. The front Scania unit of the lorry is believed to have originated in Northern Ireland.

However, they now believe the lorry trailer travelled from Zeebrugge to Purfleet, Essex, and docked in the Thurrock area shortly after 12.30am on Wednesday. A freight ferry service runs between Zeebrugge and Purfleet.

Police believe the tractor unit and trailer left the port in Thurrock shortly after 1.05am. It was then captured on CCTV on the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays at about 1.10am, where it remained. Paramedics responding to multiple calls about suspected dead bodies alerted police at about 1.40am.