Essex police on Wednesday found 39 bodies inside a truck in an industrial estate located in Grays, east London.
The discovery was made around 1:40 (local time) after police responded to an alert sent to emergency services.
The victims are 38 adults and one adolescent. Police suspect the deceased were immigrants, so the investigation is now focused on the mafias that traffic with people.
The truck had Bulgarian number plates. This is why in a preliminary stage the police thought it had come from Bulgaria. However, the Bulgarian authorities later ruled it out.
The police said later in a new release that the container left the port of Zeebrugge (Belgium) and arrived to Purfleet, in the United Kingdom, by ferri. The front part of the truck (whithout the container) had left from Northern Ireland. Both parts traveled to Grays on Wednesday around 1:00 and the bodies were found a few minutes later.
Police said they are now investigating the identity of the people who died inside the truck, a process that will surely take time.
The police have arrested the truck driver, a 25-year-old from Portadown (Northern Ireland) on suspicion of homicide.
The industrial zone of Waterglade (Grays) where the truck with the bodies was discovered was isolated by police agents to carry out the investigations.
"This is a tragic incident in which a large number of people have lost their lives," superintendent Mariner lamented.
Shocked & saddened by this utterly tragic incident in Grays. Essex Police has arrested an individual and we must give them the space to conduct their investigations.— Priti Patel MP (@patel4witham) October 23, 2019
British Interior Minister Priti Patel has said she is "shocked and saddened" at the news.
I’m appalled by this tragic incident in Essex. I am receiving regular updates and the Home Office will work closely with Essex Police as we establish exactly what has happened. My thoughts are with all those who lost their lives & their loved ones.— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) October 23, 2019
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter he is "appalled" by this "tragic incident in Essex" and promised to "establish exactly what has happened". "My thoughts are with all those who lost their lives and their loved ones", he stressed.