LONDON — The 39 people found dead inside a truck at an industrial estate near London are believed to have been Chinese, police said Thursday as more details of the incident emerged.
“Each of the 39 people must undergo a full coroner’s process to establish a cause of death before we move on to attempting to identify each individual within the trailer,” police said in a statement.
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.
Officials added that 31 were men and eight women. All were thought to have been adults, police added. Police earlier said a teenager was among the dead.
Police also raided three properties in Northern Ireland after the bodies were found in a container on the site in Grays, about 20 miles east of central London in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Police arrested the driver, a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland, on suspicion of murder.
Police said the trailer had arrived at docks in Essex, southern England, having traveled from Zeebrugge in Belgium and the bodies were found just over an hour later at 1:40 a.m.
The red cab unit of the truck was believed to have originated in Ireland. It had “Ireland” emblazoned on the windscreen along with the message “The Ultimate Dream.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was appalled by the news and was receiving regular updates about the investigation which was focused on human trafficking.
The National Crime Agency — which leads probes into organized crime and human trafficking — said it was assisting the investigation and working to “urgently identify and take action against any organized crime groups who have played a role in causing these deaths.”