Essex lorry deaths: Police make two more arrests

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Two more people have been arrested in connection with the deaths of 39 people found in a lorry container in Essex, police have said.

Following warrants in Cheshire, a 38-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman from Warrington have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic people and on suspicion of 39 counts of manslaughter.

It takes the total number of people in custody to three, with the driver of the lorry arrested on suspicion of murder at the scene of the discovery in Grays in the early hours of Wednesday.

CCTV shows truck moments before it stops
CCTV of lorry before bodies found inside

The latest arrests come amid preparations for post-mortem examinations, which will begin on Friday.

At least 11 of the victims found at Waterglade Industrial Park have been taken to Broomsfield Hospital in Chelmsford, with all of the bodies expected to be moved by the end of the week.

Essex Police said on Thursday that the 31 men and eight women are believed to be Chinese, but in their latest statement the force said the “picture may change regarding identification” as the investigation continues.

After they were found at the industrial park, they were moved to a more sensitive site at nearby Tilbury Docks.

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They are now being taken to hospital in stages.

Essex Police said: “This is all being done in close liaison with HM Coroner and we continue to work to ensure that the dignity of victims and respect for their loved ones are at the forefront of our investigation.”

The lorry was caught on CCTV 30 minutes before police were called
Essex lorry captured on CCTV

Police are yet to name or charge any of the three suspects, but Sky sources identified the driver as Mo Robinson, 25, from the town of Portadown in County Armagh, Northern Ireland.

Three addresses in County Armagh have been searched by police following the arrest of Mr Robinson, which is said to have left his family “stunned”.

They only found out about the arrest when a picture of him appeared in the media.

Their local councillor, Paul Berry, told Sky News: “His family are very well respected in the area and are very actively involved in community organisations.

“Our heart goes out to them because as of yesterday morning they were not aware that he had been arrested.”

He added: “The community’s thoughts and prayers are with the family of the 39 people who have lost their lives. People are devastated but also stunned and shocked that someone local has been arrested.”

Mo Robinson
Image: Mo Robinson was arrested on suspicion of murder

The lorry cab Mr Robinson was driving started its journey in Northern Ireland, from where it headed to Dublin and then caught a ferry to Holyhead in north Wales, before meeting the trailer in Purfleet not long after midnight.

Belgian authorities believe the container went to the UK from Zeebrugge at 2.49pm local time on Tuesday.

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

He told Belgian media all trailers that went through the port are “systematically checked”.

He added: “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.”

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The Belgian public prosecutor’s office said it is “not clear” when and where the victims were placed in the container, which was owned by Irish company Global Trailer Rental.

The firm said it rented out the container – said to have been fitted with a GPS tracking system – on 15 October.

The Bulgarian ministry of foreign affairs has said the Scania lorry itself was registered in Varna, but it is said to have not entered the country since 2017.

Forensic officers investigate the lorry
Image: Forensic officers investigate the lorry

CCTV from near the Grays industrial estate has shown the lorry with container attached being driven towards the site just half an hour before Essex Police by ambulance crews at 1.40am on Wednesday.

The force has since launched its largest ever murder investigation and China has called for “severe punishment” for anyone found to be involved in the deaths.

State newspaper Global Times has also said the UK should bear some responsibility, saying: “It is clear that Britain and relevant European countries have not fulfilled their responsibility to protect these people from such a death.”

The Chinese embassy has sent a team to Essex and foreign affairs ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying has said the country hopes police can “as soon as possible confirm and verify the identities of the victims”.

Lorry removed from scene in Essex
Image: The lorry has been removed from scene in Essex

Vigils have been held outside the Home Office in London and in Brighton and Belfast in memory of the victims, and flowers have also been left at the entrance to the industrial estate.

Politicians across the House of Commons expressed their shock over the discovery earlier this week, which echoed a similar incident from 2000 when 58 Chinese people were found dead in a container at Dover.

Road haulage experts said temperatures in refrigerated units can be as low as -25C.

Officers say people who are concerned about a loved one should call 0800 056 0944, or 0044 207 158 0010 if calling from abroad.

Sky News is broadcasting a Brexit-free channel, weekdays 5pm to 10pm on Sky 523.

Essex lorry deaths: Police make two more arrests

Two more people have been arrested in connection with the deaths of 39 people who were found in a lorry container in Essex, police have said. Following warrants in Cheshire, a 38-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman from Warrington have been arrested on suspicion to traffic people and on suspicion of 39 counts of manslaughter.

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