39 people found dead in container in Essex were Chinese nationals


Update: The 39 people found dead in the back of the lorry in Essex were Chinese nationals, sources have said.

Update: Gardaí are investigating the movements of the truck where the bodies of 39 people were found in Essex yesterday.

The vehicle is owned by a woman from Northern Ireland and the 25-year-old driver Mo Robinson, from Portadown, Co. Armagh, is being questioned on suspicion of murder.

Police in Essex are trying to establish the victims identities and an update on the investigation is expected later today.

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

Mr Berry, who has been in contact with Mr Robinson’s father several times, said he learned of his son’s arrest through social media.

“He had said he had been getting messages via people on social media on what was happening and at that stage it was not confirmed to him or his family that his son had been arrested,” said the independent representative.

“In the local area the feeling is one of complete shock and hope this is not a true story in terms of his involvement.

Mr Berry, who knows the father well, said the family were “very well respected” in the area.

“The local community is hoping that he (Mo Robinson) has been caught up innocently in this matter but that’s in the hands of Essex Police, and we will leave it in their professional hands to try to catch the perpetrators of this.”

He said the family had been left upset by the “unwelcome spotlight” the incident had shone on them.

“It was very distressing for the family as they just felt they were captive in their own home,” he said.

Earlier: Police search two Armagh addresses linked to murder suspect after 39 bodies found in container
The PSNI have searched two addresses in Northern Ireland as officers continue to question a Co. Armagh man over the discovery of 39 bodies in a refrigerated lorry trailer.

The two searches in Co. Armagh on Wednesday night are believed to be linked to the arrest of the driver, named in reports as 25-year-old Mo Robinson, from Portadown.

He remains in custody for questioning by Essex Police on suspicion of murder.

There was no answer at the Co. Armagh home of Mr Robinson’s family.

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.

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.”

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 at Waterglade Industrial Park in Eastern Avenue in nearby Grays.

Several pictures on his Facebook profile match those of the vehicle at the centre of the investigation in Grays.

Detectives have searched two properties in Northern Ireland after 39 dead bodies were found inside a lorry container in Essex

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 British 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”.

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.

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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