Grays lorry deaths: 39 people were Chinese nationals

1045 hrs

A 25-year-old lorry driver from Northern Ireland remains in custody after 39 people were found dead in Grays yesterday morning, Wednesday 23 October.

Throughout yesterday, our detectives worked with partners to conduct initial enquiries into these tragic deaths and we continue to work diligently to piece together the circumstances of this horrific event, which has led to the largest murder investigation in our force’s history.

Our work continues today, and for the foreseeable future, to be focused on providing the victims and their loved ones with an investigation that is filled with dignity, compassion and respect for those who have died.

Our lines of enquiry are extensive and will be thorough. This means that we might not have all the answers straight away. We do have some key facts, which are:

The tractor unit of the lorry had entered the country via Holyhead on Sunday 20 October, having travelled over from Dublin.

The lorry then collected the trailer, which had travelled from Zeebrugge, at the port of Purfleet at around 12:30am on the 23 October. The cab and trailer left the port shortly after 1.05am.

We were called to Waterglade Industrial Park in Eastern Avenue shortly before 1.40am on Wednesday 23 October by our colleagues in the East of England Ambulance Service to reports that 39 people had been found dead in the trailer of a lorry.

Of these, 38 are believed to be adults, and one is a young adult woman. We previously reported that she may have been a teenager. We have since confirmed that eight of the deceased are women and 31 are men and all are believed to be Chinese nationals. We arrested a man on suspicion of murder, who remains in custody.

We want to be clear – we have not speculated about the identity of this man, and we will not do so. We can confirm that three properties in County Armagh have been searched in connection with our investigation.

The lorry has since been removed from the industrial park to allow the next stage of our investigative process to be conducted in peace, and to give the utmost dignity to those within the trailer as we prepare for a coroner’s post-mortem examination.

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. This will be a substantial operation and, at this stage, we cannot estimate how long these procedures will take.

Local residents and businesses have shown us the utmost kindness and respect as we deal with this difficult and sensitive investigation. Thank you for patience, your offers for cups of tea for our hardworking teams, for the flowers that have started to appear in Eastern Avenue, and the signatures we know will appear in the Book of Condolences at the Civic Centre.

We would also like to thank all of our local and national partners for their assistance and support, especially the Red Cross who gave our officers a quiet place to go when they needed a moment, and Thurrock Council who have continued to help us ensure that disruption to the local community is minimal.

We will continue to work with partners and other law enforcement agencies to establish exactly how these 39 people lost their lives in such an untimely way. This process will be complex and lengthy, as well as incredibly challenging for all those involved, but we will not stop until we get answers for the loved ones of those who have sadly died.

If you are worried about a family member, friend, or loved one please call our dedicated hotline on 0800 056 0944 if you live in the UK and 0044 207 158 0010 if you’re dialling internationally.

If you have any information that you think can help our investigation please call us on 101 or submit your information online at https://mipp.police.uk.

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