Police in the U.K. arrested three more suspects on Friday in connection to the deaths of 39 Chinese and Vietnamese nationals whose bodies were discovered in the back of a container truck in Grays, east London, on Wednesday. Thirty-one men and eight women had been locked in a refrigerated trailer that officials believe may have departed from Bulgaria.
A man and a woman, both 38 and from Warrington, were arrested overnight on suspicion of manslaughter and of conspiracy to traffic people, Essex police said in an update.
On Friday, a 48-year-old man from Northern Ireland was arrested at London Stansted Airport also on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic and manslaughter.
Mo Robinson, the 25-year-old truck driver from Northern Ireland who picked up the trailer and discovered the bodies, remains in custody after being charged with murder on Wednesday.
Two arrests have been made.
A 25 y/o man, the driver of the lorry, remains in custody.
— Essex Police (@EssexPoliceUK) October 25, 2019
Initial police reports stated that all of the victims had been Chinese nationals. However, reports now suggest that some may have been from Vietnam.
Police escorted a series of ambulances from the location where the lorry had been discovered in Grays, which is about 25 miles east of London, to a mortuary, where a series of postmortem examinations were set to begin on Friday.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement on Twitter that he will work with Essex law enforcement to determine what happened. “I’m appalled by this tragic incident in Essex,” he wrote on Wednesday. “My thoughts are with all those who lost their lives & their loved ones.”
I’m appalled by this tragic incident in Essex. I am receiving regular updates and the Home Office will work closely with Essex Police as we establish exactly what has happened. My thoughts are with all those who lost their lives & their loved ones.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) October 23, 2019
The truck consisted of a tractor-unit-and-trailer combination. The tractor unit entered the U.K. from Dublin, Ireland via the port of Holyhead four days before picking up the trailer. Police believe that the truck may have been registered in Bulgaria.
The refrigerated trailer passed through the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium and arrived in Purfleet on the River Thames near London just after midnight on Wednesday. The trailer was picked up by the tractor unit shortly afterwards. Just over one hour after the trailer arrived in the U.K., police were notified that it was standing at Waterglade Industrial Estate in Grays, Essex and that a number of bodies had been found inside.
Refrigerated trailers of this type need to be almost completely airtight to prevent warmer air from outside and, thus, fresh air from entering. Depending on their cargo, they may achieve refrigeration temperatures of as low as minus 13° F. Refrigerated containers and trailers are favored by human traffickers because their cold, air-tight environments make the detection of persons inside more difficult for thermal imaging cameras and sniffer dogs at ports.
The trailer in question had been leased at a rate of $305 per week from Global Trailer Rentals in Monaghan, Ireland, though it was registered in Northern Ireland. According to a statement from Global Trailer Rentals, which claims it owns the trailer, the trailer was leased out on Oct. 15 and all trailers belonging to the company are fitted with GPS tracking devices.
“The company was entirely unaware that the trailer was to be used in the manner which it appears to have been,” the statement says, adding that the company has been in contact with Essex police and has provided them with “full details.”
For years, illegal immigrants have attempted to reach Britain stowed away in trucks, often from the European mainland. In 2000, 58 Chinese were found dead in a tomato truck at the port of Dover.
Reuters contributed to this report.