Police begin moving 39 bodies from trailer as driver remains in custody

Support us and go ad-free

Police have begun the task of moving the 39 bodies found in a refrigerated trailer attached to a lorry in Essex as a 25-year-old man remains in custody on suspicion of murder.

Detectives were granted more time to question the driver of the truck, named locally as Mo Robinson from Northern Ireland, after eight women and 31 men were discovered dead on 23 October.

All were believed to be Chinese nationals.

On 24 October, the first 11 victims were moved by a private ambulance with a police escort from the Port of Tilbury to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford.

Bodies found in lorry container
It is thought police will remain at the scene for several days (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The remaining bodies will be transported in stages, with police expecting all the victims to be moved to hospital by the end of the week.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Post-mortem examinations will be carried out, but police warned the investigation will take “some considerable time”.

Essex Police Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington said he had the “utmost confidence” in his officers as the force leads its largest-ever murder investigation.

Irish police are conducting follow-up inquiries in relation to the registrations and movements of the refrigerated container and the Irish-owned truck.

Three addresses have been searched in the North of Ireland as part of the probe.

Councillor Paul Berry said the village of Laurelvale, where the Robinson family live, was in “complete shock”.

Irish company Global Trailer Rentals Ltd (GTR) confirmed it owned the refrigerated part of the lorry and a spokesman said the company was “shellshocked” and “gutted” by the news.

The firm said the trailer had been leased on 15 October from its rentals yard in Co Monaghan, in the Republic of Ireland, at a rate of 275 euro (£237) a week.

It said it provided police with information about the person and company that leased the trailer, as well as offering to make tracking data available.

The trailer arrived at Purfleet from Zeebrugge in Belgium at around 12.30am on 23 October, and the front section to which it was attached, known as the tractor, came from Northern Ireland via Holyhead in North Wales on 20 October.

The lorry and trailer left the port at Purfleet shortly after 1.05am and officers were called to the Waterglade Industrial Park on Eastern Avenue in Grays at 1.40am.

Questions have been raised about when the victims entered the sealed refrigerated trailer, where temperatures can be as low as -25C, as well as the full route of the unit.

Joachim Coens, chief executive of Zeebrugge port, from where the lorry trailer departed, said it was unlikely people were loaded into the container at the Belgian site.

Mayor Dirk De Fauw, also the chairman of the port of Zeebrugge, said it was “virtually impossible” the victims went into the trailer at the Belgian border.

He told Belgian media: “Each trailer is systematically checked to look for outward signs of damage. Then it is sealed. Trailers are filmed until they are on the ferry.

“In the terminals too there are cameras. Breaking the seal, putting 39 people in a trailer and resealing the trailer without anybody noticing is virtually impossible.”

A spokesman for C.RO Ports, which operates terminals at Purfleet and Zeebrugge, said the firm would “fully assist” the police investigation, while the Chinese ambassador to the UK, Lui Xioaming, said the Chinese embassy had sent a team to Grays to meet with police.

Vigils have been held in London and Belfast to pay tribute to the victims and a book of condolences has been opened in Grays.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us