Police in southeastern England launched a murder investigation after 39 people were found dead early Wednesday inside a large cargo truck that authorities believe was registered in Bulgaria and came into the country via Ireland.
The truck, which British police said entered the U.K. on Saturday via the Welsh port of Holyhead, was found across the country at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, a town 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of London on the River Thames.
A 25-year-old-man from Northern Ireland who was driving the truck was arrested on suspicion of murder, police said. He has not been charged or identified.Lawmaker Jackie Doyle-Price, who represents the region in parliament.
“To put 39 people into a locked metal container shows a contempt for human life that is evil.”
Police did not formally tie the deaths to human trafficking but a link was assumed because of the way the victims were crammed into the truck’s container. The truck’s apparently circuitous route into and around Britain also raised suspicions among shipping experts.
Police were called to the truck at 1:40 a.m., alerted by ambulance workers, but it was unclear how the workers heard of the tragedy.
Police said one victim appeared to be a teenager but gave no further details on the victims.
A cordon has been put around the white tractor-trailer and access to and from the industrial park has been restricted. Mariner said police were working with local authorities in Thurrock to mitigate “any impact our investigation scene will have” on the region.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged in a tweet to work closely with Essex Police to establish exactly what happened and later told Parliament that people smugglers would be pursued and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“All such traders in human beings should be hunted down and brought to justice.”Prime Minister Boris Johnson
The tragedy recalls the death of 58 migrants in 2000 in a truck in Dover, England, and the deaths in 2015 of 71 migrants from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan who were found suffocated in the back of a refrigerated truck that was abandoned on an Austrian highway close to the Hungarian border.
Smaller numbers of migrants have occasionally been found dead in trucks in Britain in recent years.
SOURCE: Associated Press.