By Local Democracy Reporter
A LEADING Thurrock councillor has called events in Grays where 39 dead bodies were found inside a lorry container at an industrial estate “a terrible crime” and promised the council will make a donation to the Red Cross to thank them for their support.
Councillor James Halden spoke about the incident during a sombre council meeting on Wednesday evening, telling colleagues it was an event that “assaults our understanding of humanity”.
Emergency services made the shocking discovery at the Waterglade Industrial Park on Eastern Avenue in Grays during the early hours of Wednesday morning and pronounced 39 people dead at the scene, including one teenager.
Early reports said the lorry may have entered the country through Holyhead in Wales but Essex Police later said the trailer had travelled from Zeebrugge and into Purfleet, docking shortly after 12.30am this morning.
The driver of the lorry, a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland, is in custody having been arrested on suspicion of murder.
Mr Halden, speaking in council leader Rob Gledhill’s absence, said: “Let us be clear, this is a terrible crime, and we will do whatever is needed and put in place whatever is needed to support enforcement agencies to eradicate this evil.”
He continued: “I want to put on record my thanks to all partners.
“From health partners such as the Clinical Commissioning Group and Basildon and Broomfield hospitals who stepped forward to support necessary arrangements for the deceased, to the businesses in Lakeside and charities who supported the men and women in our emergency services, to the council staff who ensured organization still functioned during such a terrible situation.
“To this end, Thurrock Council will make a donation to the Red Cross to thank them for their help and support, and myself and the Acting CEO will visit the area tomorrow to thank staff.
“Of course my biggest thanks go to the police. We see the police each and every day, but it’s only when you sit on the other end of the phone and hear them talk about the most gruesome events and approach it with such professionalism and clarity, that you truly see the depth and breadth of their work.
“They saw and dealt with things today which we all have the good fortune of being kept away from, and we salute them for that.”
He added that he has requested council staff to “intensify” work with the Home Office to support the refugee programme and while details remain vague “what is clear is that these people were indeed victims of a terrible crime”.
Shortly before the meeting, the council announced it has arranged for a book of condolence to be opened for members of the public to share their sympathies following the incident.
The book will be available in the reception of the Civic Offices, Grays, for two weeks.
Councillor Terry Piccolo, Mayor of Thurrock, said: “This is a tragic incident and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those who lost their lives in this terrible way.
“Thurrock Council will do all it can to assist Essex Police as their investigation continues.”
Anyone with information should contact the Major Investigation Team on 101 or visit their website.