39 bodies dumped in Essex victims of people trafficking by Balkan mafia

Balkan trafficking cartel suspected of dumping 39 bodies in Essex yesterday

Essex lorry deaths

The 39 dead bodies dumped in Essex near London yesterday were Chinese nationals it has emerged.

The 39 people found dead in a refrigerated trailer in Essex were Chinese nationals who froze to death it has been announced.

Police have been granted an extra 24 hours to question the Irish lorry driver, 25, on suspicion of murdering the eight women and 31 men. 38 of whom where adults and one teenage child.

Three properties in Northern Ireland have been raided and the NCA (National Crime Agency) is working to establish if “organised crime groups” were involved as is suspected.

The trailer arrived in Purfleet on the River Thames from Zeebrugge in Belgium, but originated from Bulgaria in European part of the Balkans.

Ambulance staff discovered the bodies in the container at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays just after 01:30 BST on Wednesday morning.

The lorry and trailer left the port at Purfleet shortly after 01:05.

Police said the cab part of the truck that pulls the trailer came from Dublin, Republic of Ireland, through Holyhead, Wales, across England and towards London where it picked up the trailer which came from the Balkans via Belgium.

Speaking after a magistrate granted Essex Police more time to question the driver on Thursday, Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills said her priority was “preserving the dignity of the 39 people who have died and ensuring that we get answers for their loved ones”.

The lorry has now been moved to a secure site at Tilbury Docks and police said they were beginning the process of moving the bodies to a mortuary at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford.

They will be taken by private ambulance under police escort so that post-mortem examinations can take place, with the force expecting all the bodies to have been moved by the weekend.

Essex Police said it was the largest murder investigation in the force’s history and the victims were all “believed to be Chinese nationals”.

China’s ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming said via Twitter that China was “with heavy hearts” and was in close contact with the British police.

Lucy Moreton, from the Immigration Services Union, said:

“We don’t have the facility to check the vast majority of freight which arrives in the UK, whether it moves or not.” she said.

She said disconnected freight containers were less likely to be searched unless there was “intelligence to the contrary that suggests we need to do that”.

A spokesman for the Bulgarian foreign affairs ministry said the truck was registered in the country under the name of a company owned by an Irish citizen.

The Belgian Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office said the container arrived in Zeebrugge at 14:29 on Tuesday and left the port later that afternoon.

It was not clear when the victims were placed in the container in the U.K. or if this happened in or before entering Belgium, a spokesman said.

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About the Author

Amy Radclif
Journalist for Al-Sahawat Times