Man, 46, arrested at Stansted Airport on suspicion of manslaughter after 39 found dead in lorry
A 46-year-old man from Northern Ireland was arrested at Stansted Airport on Friday (Oct 25) in connection with the deaths of 39 people in a refrigerated lorry trailer.
He was held on suspicion of manslaughter and conspiracy to traffic people following the discovery of the bodies of eight women and 31 men at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex, on Wednesday (October 23).
The man and a 38-year-old couple from Warrington, Cheshire, arrested on suspicion of the same offences have since been released on bail. The lorry driver, Mo Robinson, 25, of County Armagh, has been charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, people trafficking, inmigration and money laundering offences. He is due to appear at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court on Monday (Oct 28).
On Friday, Deputy Chief Constable of Essex Pippa Mills said: “This is a fast-moving investigation involving significant police resources dedicated to finding out the truth about what happened to the 39 people found dead in the lorry.”
Her force initially described the victims as Chinese nationals, but there is increasing evidence that the dead were being trafficked from Vietnam.
The BBC has reported that Pham Thi Tra My, 26, sent text messages to her parents on Tuesday (Oct 22) saying she could not breathe. The last arrived at 10.30pm, shortly before the trailer arrived at the Port of Tilbury on the River Thames from Zeebrugge in Belgium.
It said in Vietnamese: “I am really, really sorry, Mum and Dad, my trip to a foreign land has failed.
"I am dying, I can't breathe. I love you very much, Mum and Dad. I am sorry, Mother."
Deputy Chief Constable Mills said: “We owe it to those who have died to get this investigation right and speculation is not helpful. It may, in fact, hinder our investigation and its progress.
“The force will not be commenting on any speculation about the nationalities of those who have tragically lost their lives.
“We gave an initial steer on Thursday on nationality, however this is now a developing picture. As such I will not be drawn on any further detail until formal identification processes approved by Her Majesty’s Coroner have taken place.”
She continued: “I can confirm we have officers working around the clock and we have now arrested a fourth person.
“A 48-year-old [sic] man from Northern Ireland was arrested at Stansted Airport earlier today on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic people and on suspicion of manslaughter.
“We are working closely with the National Crime Agency, the Home Office, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Border Force and Immigration Enforcement.”
Essex Police has begun moving the victims from Tilbury to the mortuary at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, where formal identification processes will take place as well as the post-mortem examinations to establish the causes of their deaths.
DCC Mills appealed to those who fear their relatives or friends are among the dead to come forward. She reassured those worried about their immigration status that they had nothing to fear from helping the investigation.
“I would like to speak directly to anyone who thinks their loved ones may have been in the trailer. I know you may be worried about speaking to the police. I would like to reassure you that we just want to be able to give the victims’ families answers about what has happened," she said.
"I can’t begin to comprehend what some of you must be going through right now. You have my assurance that Essex Police will be working tirelessly to understand the whole picture to this absolute tragedy.
“I would also like to make an appeal to anyone living illegally in this country who could help our investigation. Please come forward and speak to us without fear. I can assure you that your information will be received in strictest confidence and no criminal action will be taken against you.
“If you do not feel able to speak to police directly, please contact Crimestoppers 100% anonymously on 0800 555111."
- The tractor unit of the lorry entered Great Britain via Holyhead in Wales from Dublin on Sunday October 20.
- The lorry collected the trailer, which had travelled from Zeebrugge in Belgium, at the Port of Tilbury at around 12.30am on Wednesday October 23. The cab and trailer left the port shortly after 1.05am.
- Essex Police were called to Waterglade Industrial Park in Eastern Avenue, Grays, shortly before 1.40am the same day by the East of England Ambulance Service in response to reports that 39 people had been found dead in the trailer of a lorry.