39 dead in truck were Chinese nationals: Police
GRAYS, ENGLAND British police said yesterday that 39 people found dead in a truck near London were all believed to be Chinese nationals, as officers conduct the country's largest murder probe in more than a decade.
They were given extra time to question the 25-year-old driver arrested on suspicion of murder in an investigation focused on human trafficking.
Officers searched three properties in the County Armagh area of Northern Ireland linked to the driver. The driver has not been formally identified but a source familiar with the investigation said he was Mo Robinson from the Portadown area of the British province.
Emergency workers made the grisly discovery early on Wednesday inside the refrigerated container of a truck parked in an industrial area east of London, shortly after it had arrived on a ferry from Belgium.
The case has triggered shock and outrage in Britain, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson describing it as an "unimaginable tragedy".
The local police force said in a statement that eight of the dead were women and 31 were men.
China's Foreign Ministry said its embassy staff in London were heading to the scene "to verify the situation".
"We read with heavy heart the reports about the death of 39 people in Essex, England," the Chinese embassy said in a statement, adding further clarification was being sought with police.
The container section of the truck came by ferry from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge into Purfleet on the River Thames estuary - a crossing that takes nine to 12 hours.
The vessel docked there at around 12.30am on Wednesday (7.30am Singapore time) and the truck left the port area about half an hour later.
Emergency services were called to the Waterglade Industrial Park around 1.40am local time.
Prosecutors in Belgium have launched their own probe and confirmed yesterday that the container had passed through Zeebrugge, one of the world's biggest and busiest ports on Tuesday.
"It is not yet clear when the victims were placed in the container and whether this happened in Belgium," the Belgian federal prosecutor's office said.
Essex police revealed the tractor unit of the truck entered Britain on Sunday on a ferry from Dublin to the Welsh port of Holyhead.
They had earlier said they believed the tractor originated in Northern Ireland.
The vehicle had licence plates issued in Bulgaria after it was registered there in 2017 by an Irish citizen, according to Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.
He said the unit had not entered Bulgarian territory since and there was "no connection with us".
In another incident on Wednesday, police in Kent, a county in southeast England, said they had discovered nine people stowed away in the back of another truck. - AFP