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Investigation launched after 39 people found dead in lorry trailer
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Latest updates following the discovery of a refrigerated container with people inside at Waterglade Industrial Park, Eastern Avenue, Grays.
Update: Monday 16 March 2020 9.15am
A man from Birmingham has been charged in connection with our investigation into the deaths of 39 Vietnamese nationals last October.
Valentin Calota, 37, of Cossington Road, will appear at Basildon Magistrates’ Court today, Monday 16 March.
He has been charged with conspiring to do an act to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK immigration law by a non EU person between 1 May 2018 and 24 October 2019.
Update: Wednesday 4 March 2020 9.30am
A man from Tilbury has been charged with an immigration offence and will appear at Basildon Magistrates’ Court this morning, Wednesday 4 March.
Alexandru-Ovidiu Hanga, 27, of Hobart Road, was arrested earlier this week in connection with our ongoing investigation into the death of 39 Vietnamese citizens on 23 October 2019.
The offences are alleged to have taken place between 1 May 2018 and 24 October 2019.
As detectives continue their investigations, we continue to urge any Vietnamese nationals who may have entered the country illegally via Purfleet in October 2019 to assist with our enquiries.
Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith said: “We believe that a number of other people travelled into the UK in a similar way to the 39 deceased throughout the month of October and we hope that these people would be able to help us.
“We understand that there may be concerned about coming forward and sharing their experiences, but we can assure you that your information and details will be treated in confidence.”
Please call Rayleigh’s Major Crime Team on 101 if you can help, or you can submit information, including videos and photos, through our public portal.
Update: Monday 24 February 2020 3pm
Representatives from Essex Police are entering their final week in Vietnam and have completed family visits across six provinces in the country.
The success of this visit would not have been possible without the support of our partner agencies, including the Ministry of Public Security in Vietnam, the British Embassy in Vietnam, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, local law enforcement colleagues in the provinces and the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Throughout the last fortnight, officers and staff have been able to meet with all Vietnam-based families whose loved ones were tragically found dead in Grays on 23 October 2019.
These visits were arranged by our partners and allowed the team to offer condolences to the families face-to-face and answer any questions they had, as well as gathering accounts from family members about the circumstances that had led their loved ones to the UK.
The meetings were chaired by the local law enforcement in each province visited: Ha Tinh, Nghe An, Quang Binh, Thua Thien Hue, Hai Phong and Hai Duong. Members of the Ministry of Public Security and representatives from the Embassy were also present to assist in what were emotionally challenging meetings.
After months of dedicated discussions, the team from Essex Police has been warmly received by all partner organisations. This has ensured that the families of victims were given the opportunity to learn more about the identification process for their loved ones, could hear more about the progress of the investigation and, most importantly, had face-to-face support from our family liaison officers.
ACC Tim Smith of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: "This visit has been crucial to ensure we gave the victims’ families the very best support we could despite the distance from Essex. Our officers and staff have worked hard to ensure this happened and I hope it has given the families affected some small comfort in such a tragic event. One of the main challenges with this investigation has been the vastness of its geography. We are incredibly thankful that, in addition to the contact we've had with families over the phone, we were able to come to Vietnam and offer our support and condolences in person.
"This simply would not have been possible without the support from colleagues at home and that of diplomatic and law enforcement partners in Vietnam. From an international level to a local one, we have worked together to get the best outcome of this visit for the families of the victims, who have suffered unimaginable losses. Our thoughts are always with them, and we are so grateful to have been able to communicate that directly to them."
Mark Bishop, the NCA’s head of operations for the Asia Pacific region, said: “The investigation into the tragic events in Essex last October has been extremely complex and truly international. I’d like to thank our law enforcement colleagues in Vietnam for their support, and our work with them will continue through the NCA international network. I’d also like to add my condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives. I hope this visit has at least given them some reassurance that the UK authorities are determined to do all we can to bring those responsible to justice.”
Photo: Essex Police representatives are joined by the National Crime Agency and British Embassy representatives as they meet with members of Vietnam's Ministry of Public Security. This was taken after a successful meeting between all parties at MPS headquarters in Hanoi on 11 February.
Photo: Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith meets with British Ambassador to Vietnam, Gareth Ward, and Deputy Foreign Minister to Vietnam, To Anh Dung on 13 February. At the same meeting, Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith presented the Deputy Foreign Minister with two Books of Condolence, which were set up by Thurrock Council after the 23 October. The books will now be kept in Hanoi.
Photo: Two of the teams from Essex Police, representatives from the Embassy, the Ministry of Public Security and local police in Ha Tinh. Taken on 18 February after several days of family meetings in the district.
Photo: (L-R) Chief Supt Andy Mariner, Pete Vernon from the National Crime Agency, Ms Hanh Pham from the British Embassy in Vietnam and Det Chief Supt Stuart Hooper.
Photo: DCI Martin Pasmore presenting to local law enforcement and Ministry of Public Security colleagues on the team's last day in Nghe An. Taken on 18 February.
Photo: DI Michelle Stoten, PC Mark Hodgson and Embassy representative Graham Orr with local law enforcement colleagues in Hue City. Taken on 19 February.
Photo: The team with staff from the Embassy in Hanoi.
Update: Wednesday 12 February 2020 9am
A small team of 12, made up of police officers and staff, are currently in Vietnam to meet the families impacted by the terrible tragedy of 39 victims being found dead in a lorry in Grays in October 2019.
They will be in the country until the end of February and are working closely with the British Embassy and National Crime Agency international liaison staff in Hanoi, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who have assisted with the arrangements for this trip. Specialist officers from the NCA and officers from the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security will be joining the Essex Police team on the visits, and we have been working closely with both agencies throughout this investigation.
Update: Tuesday 11 February 2020 12pm
Detectives investigating the tragic deaths of 39 Vietnamese citizens found in Grays last year are continuing to make significant progress and making international arrests.
All post-mortem examinations have now been completed and we await the final reports for all 39 victims. The provisional cause of death for those in the lorry was a combination of hypoxia and hyperthermia (overheating) in an enclosed space.
Our teams are continuing to progress hundreds of lines of enquiry and are working with the National Crime Agency and other law enforcement agencies from across the globe to further their lengthy and complex investigation. Further arrests have also been made in connection with the investigation. A 22-year-old man was arrested in Northern Ireland yesterday, Sunday 9 February, on suspicion of manslaughter and facilitating unlawful immigration. He is currently in custody in Essex.
Last week, on the instruction of Essex Police, German authorities and the National Crime Agency carried out an arrest in connection with our investigation.
Gheorghe Nica, 43, of Mimosa Close in Langdon Hills was detained at Frankfurt Airport on Wednesday 29 January.
Nica was subject of a European Arrest Warrant, which had been successfully applied for by Essex Police and the Crown Prosecution Service. He appeared at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on Saturday 8 February and will next appear at the Old Bailey, London, on 16 March.
He faces charges of 39 counts of manslaughter and one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
A second man appeared in Dublin’s High Court on Tuesday 4 February in connection with the deaths.
Eamonn Harrison, 23, of Mayobridge, Northern Ireland awaits extradition to the UK under the terms of a European Arrest Warrant.
Harrison faces 39 charges of manslaughter and charges for conspiracy to traffic people and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
He will appear at the same court again tomorrow, Wednesday 12 February. As our investigation progresses, we are keen to hear from anyone who has knowledge of two similar journeys that haulage vehicles made into Purfleet on Friday 11 and Friday 18 October 2019. It is believed that lorries were used to facilitate the unlawful entry of people into the country via Purfleet. We believe that these people, or anyone who had knowledge of the journeys, has crucial information to assist our inquiry.
A man has appeared in court today, Friday 24 January, in connection with the deaths of 39 people found in a lorry in Grays last year.
Eamonn Harrison, 23, of Mayobridge, NorthernIreland, appeared at Dublin’s High Court where it was agreed that he would be extradited to the UK under the terms of an European Arrest Warrant (EAW).
He faces 39 charges of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and he has been remanded to appear... at Dublin’s High Court on Tuesday 4 February.
This hearing will agree the terms of Harrison’s extradition, which followed successful applications made by Essex Police and the Crown Prosecution Service.
Update: Saturday 30 November 2019 10:50
The following statements have been made by Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith, lead for the investigation in to the deaths of 39 people on our shores on Wednesday 23 October, and HM Senior Coroner for Essex Mrs Caroline Beasley-Murray.
ACC Tim Smith said: “On behalf of everyone at Essex Police I would like to extend our sincerest condolences to the families of the victims as they are reunited with their loved ones following their tragic deaths in October. Our thoughts are with them.
“While the process to repatriate the victims back to Vietnam from the UK has concluded, I continue to have detectives and police staff working tirelessly on what is a large and complex investigation
“On 23 October, 39 men, women and children died needlessly as a result of this fateful journey and we remain committed to ensuring that we do all we can to bring those involved to justice.”
HM Senior Coroner for Essex, Mrs Caroline Beasley-Murray, said: “I am grateful to Essex Police, the forensic pathologists, Broomfield mortuary staff along with all the others who ensured a speedy conclusion to the identification of the victims. I am glad that all the victims of this appalling tragedy have now been repatriated and our thoughts remain with the bereaved families at this dreadful time for them. It is important that not just the living but also the dead are treated with respect. As William Gladstone once said: “Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land, their loyalty to high ideals.”
Update: Monday 25 November 2019 21:00
A 36-year-old man from Purfleet was arrested this morning, Monday 25 November, at a property in Dalston, east London, on suspicion of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration, in connection with our enquiry in to the deaths of 39 Vietnamese nationals in a lorry trailer found in Grays on 23 October. He remains in custody for questioning.
Update: Monday 25 November 2019 14:00
A man has admitted two charges linked to the deaths of 39 people found in a lorry in Grays in October.
Maurice Robinson, 25, of Craigavon, Northern Ireland, appeared at the Old Bailey in London today, Monday 25 November, where he faced 43 separate offences including 39 counts of manslaughter.
Robinson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property.
The offences outstanding against him remain the 39 counts of manslaughter as well as transferring criminal property and conspiracy to commit a human trafficking offence.
The case against him has been adjourned until 13 December, back at the Old Bailey.
Christopher Kennedy, 23, of Darley, Co. Armagh, Northern Ireland, was charged over the weekend with offences of conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of people with a view to exploitation and conspiracy to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK immigration law. He appeared in front of magistrates in Chelmsford this morning, Monday 25 November. No pleas were entered and his case was adjourned to the Old Bailey in London on 13 December.
Update: Sunday 24 November 2019 09:50
A man has been charged with human trafficking offences.
Christopher Kennedy, 23, was arrested on Friday 22 November in connection with our enquiry in to the deaths of 39 Vietnamese nationals in a lorry trailer found in Grays on 23 October.
The Crown Prosecution Service has authorised charges of conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of people with a view to exploitation and conspiracy to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK immigration law.
Kennedy, of Corkley Road in Darkley, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, is due to appear at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on Monday 25 November.
Update: Friday 22 November 2019 10:08
A 23-year-old man from Northern Ireland was arrested by officers from Thames Valley Police on behalf of Essex Police in the early hours of this morning on the M40 in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, in connection with our enquiry in to the deaths of 39 Vietnamese nationals in a lorry trailer found in Grays on 23 October.
He was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic people and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and remains in custody.
Update: Friday 8 November 2019 13:29
We can release the details of the 39 people whose bodies were found in a container shipped from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Essex in the UK.
Formal identification has been established via an Identification Commission, overseen by Her Majesty’s Senior Coroner for Essex, Mrs Caroline Beasley-Murray.
The senior officer in overall charge of the enquiry Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith said:
“This was an incredibly important process and our team has been working hard to bring answers to worried families who fear their loved one may be among those whose tragic journey ended on our shores.
“Our priority has been to identify the victims, to preserve the dignity of those who have died and to support the victims’ friends and families.
“It remained of paramount importance to us to ensure that an individual’s next of kin were informed, and that they were given some time to absorb this tragic news before we publicly confirmed their loved one’s identity.
“We have worked closely with the National Crime Agency, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Vietnamese Authorities to identify and locate their families.
Her Majesty’s Senior Coroner, Mrs Caroline Beasley-Murray said:
“May I take this opportunity to offer my deepest condolences to the victims’ families. My thoughts are with them at this unimaginably difficult time.”
We can confirm having liaised with the Vietnamese authorities that the people who died were:
Pham Thi Tra My, 26-year-old woman from Ha Tinh Nguyen Dinh Luong, 20-year-old man from Ha Tinh Nguyen Huy Phong, 35-year-old man from Ha Tinh Vo Nhan Du, 19-year-old man from Ha Tinh Tran Manh Hung, 37-year-old man from Ha Tinh Tran Khanh Tho, 18-year-old man from Ha Tinh Vo Van Linh, 25-year-old man from Ha Tinh Nguyen Van Nhan, 33-year-old man from Ha Tinh Bui Phan Thang, 37-year-old man from Ha Tinh Nguyen Huy Hung, 15-year-old boy from Ha Tinh Tran Thi Tho, 21-year-old woman from Nghe An Bui Thi Nhung, 19-year-old woman from Nghe An Vo Ngoc Nam, 28-year-old man from Nghe An Nguyen Dinh Tu, 26-year-old man from Nghe An Le Van Ha, 30-year-old man from Nghe An Tran Thi Ngoc, 19-year-old woman from Nghe An Nguyen Van Hung, 33-year-old man from Nghe An Hoang Van Tiep, 18-year-old man from Nghe An Cao Tien Dung, 37-year-old man from Nghe An Cao Huy Thanh, 37-year-old man from Nghe An Tran Thi Mai Nhung, 18-year-old woman from Nghe An Nguyen Minh Quang, 20-year-old man from Nghe An Le Trong Thanh, 44-year-old man from Dien Chau Pham Thi Ngoc Oanh, 28-year-old woman from Nghe An Hoang Van Hoi, 24-year-old man from Nghe An Nguyen Tho Tuan, 25-year-old man from Nghe An Dang Huu Tuyen, 22-year-old man from Nghe An Nguyen Trong Thai, 26-year-old man from Nghe An Nguyen Van Hiep, 24-year-old man from Nghe An Nguyen Thi Van, 35-year-old woman from Nghe An Tran Hai Loc, 35-year-old man from Nghe An Duong Minh Tuan, 27-year-old man from Quang Binh Nguyen Ngoc Ha, 32-year-old man from Quang Binh Nguyen Tien Dung, 33-year-old man from Quang, Binh Phan Thi Thanh, 41-year-old woman from Hai Phong Nguyen Ba Vu Hung, 34-year-old man from Thua Tien Hue Dinh Dinh Thai Quyen, 18-year-old man from Hai Phong Tran Ngoc Hieu, 17-year-old boy from Hai Duong Dinh Dinh Binh, 15-year-old boy from Hai Phong
Consultation is underway with regard to the repatriation of those who have died, with the Vietnamese and UK governments working together to achieve this.
The Identification Commission
The Identification Commission’s purpose is to establish whether there is sufficient evidence to confirm someone’s identity, and is made up of a series of processes which include but are not limited to fingerprints, DNA, medical or dentistry documentation and distinctive markings such as tattoos and scars. It is for HM Senior Coroner to set the criteria which must be met before they are satisfied that a formal identification can be made.
Essex Police are aware that there have been extensive media briefings in Vietnam and this has understandably been of significant interest.
The Government, the National Crime Agency, foreign police forces and Essex Police have worked with HM Senior Coroner to make sure that every detail has been verified in order to maintain the dignity of those who have died and to show respect for their families and friends.
Update: Thursday 7 November 2019 13:30
Identification of victims discovered on 23 October in the lorry trailer which travelled from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Grays, Essex.
Essex Police have been working with Vietnamese Police officers to present cases to Her Majesty’s Senior Coroner for Essex to verify the identities of the 39 people discovered at Grays in Essex on Wednesday 23 October.
A series of files have been brought before an Identification Commission, and HM Senior Coroner Mrs Caroline Beasley-Murray has now formally identified all of the victims, and the families of those victims have been notified.
“May I take this opportunity to offer my deepest condolences to the victims’ families.”
The senior officer in charge of the enquiry, Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith said:
“This is an important step in the investigation and enables us to work with our Vietnamese Police colleagues to support the families of those victims. It is only right that we provide an opportunity for family members to take in the news confirming the death of their loved ones before releasing any further information. Our thoughts remain with the families and friends of those whose tragic journey ended on our shores.”
Essex Police continues to lead the investigation, working with the National Crime Agency and with European Law Enforcement colleagues.
Update: Tuesday 5 November 2019 18:00
Photo: Essex Police Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills, pictured with Col Tran Van Du from the Vietnamese Police.
ACC Tim Smith, the senior police officer in overall charge of the investigation in to the deaths of 39 men and women discovered at Grays, Essex, on Wednesday 23 October, said: "Essex Police is continuing to progress the complex investigation in to the circumstances which led to 39 people being found dead in a lorry in Grays.
"We are working with national and international partners to get answers for the friends and family of those who died and bring all those responsible to justice.
This week we welcomed a delegation of Vietnamese Police and officials who met with officers involved in the investigation.
"The identities of the victims remain unconfirmed, however we have worked closely with Vietnamese Police over the last two days and anticipate presenting cases to the Identification Commission which is overseen by Her Majesty’s Senior Coroner for Essex Caroline Beasley-Murray.
"It’s an important process which is the culmination of hours of meticulous work by a dedicated team to provide evidence to be presented at the commission.
"Our priority continues to be to the thorough and meticulous investigation into the criminality that resulted in the death of the victims, to preserve the dignity of those who have died and to support their friends and family.”
Update: Friday 1 November 2019 19:20
Statement from Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith. Officer in overall charge of the investigation into the deaths of 39 men and women discovered at Grays, Essex on 23rd October 2019.
“Essex Police is continuing to work closely with HM Senior Coroner and the National Crime Agency to progress the investigation and help identify the victims.
“At this time, we believe the victims are Vietnamese nationals, and we are in contact with the Vietnamese Government. We are in direct contact with a number of families in Vietnam and the UK, and we believe we have identified families for some of the victims whose journey ended in tragedy on our shores.
“The confirmatory evidence needed to formally present cases to HM Senior Coroner for her consideration has not yet been obtained. This evidence is being gathered across a number of jurisdictions worldwide. As a result, we cannot at this time announce the identity of any of the victims.
“We will continue to co-operate closely with the Vietnamese Government, and others, to identify the victims and offer our support to all those affected by this tragedy.
“From the outset, our thoughts have been and remain with those who have lost loved ones in this tragic incident.
“I would like to continue to appeal to anyone who has information that may assist us in our process to identify the victims to please contact Essex Police.
“Details of how you can pass information can be found at mipp.police.uk where there are also details on how to contact us translated in to Vietnamese.
“We have specially trained people, supported by Vietnamese interpreters, answering our dedicated hotline between 9am to midnight, seven days a week on 0800 056 0944 if you live in the UK and 0044 207 158 0010 if you’re dialling internationally.
“Please come forward and help us to provide answers to the 39 people’s families.”
Update: Friday 1 November 2019 13:42
A European Arrest Warrant has been executed in Dublin today, Friday 1 November, in connection with the Essex Police investigation in to the deaths of 39 people who were found in a lorry trailer in Grays last week.
Eamonn Harrison, 22, of Mayobridge, Northern Ireland, is charged with 39 offences of manslaughter, as well as human trafficking and immigration offences.
He has appeared before the High Court, Criminal Courts of Justice, Dublin, and remanded in custody.
The Crown Prosecution Service has started extradition proceedings to bring him to the UK.
Update: Friday 1 November 2019 12:05
Detectives have urged Ronan and Christopher Hughes to come forward and hand themselves in to police in Northern Ireland.
Ronan Hughes, 40 and his brother Christopher Hughes, 34 from Armagh, Northern Ireland, are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking in connection with the deaths of 39 people, whose bodies were found in a container in Grays last week.
Speaking in a press conference at Police Service of Northern Ireland Headquarters today in Belfast, Senior Investigating Officer Detective Chief Inspector Daniel Stoten said: "Today I want to make a direct appeal. Ronan and Christopher hand yourself in to police. We need you both to come forward and assist us with this investigation."
Detective Chief Inspector Stoten went on to thank the local community and members of the road haulage and shipping industries for the support they have offered so far: "I would like to thank all those from communities in Northern Ireland and Ireland, along with those in the road haulage and shipping industries, who have come forward to share information and knowledge with us. You help has been invaluable.
"We know that you are as appalled as the rest of the world following the deaths of 39 people, whose bodies were found in a container which travelled from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Grays in Essex last week.
"Finding Ronan and Christopher Hughes is crucial to our investigation and the sooner we can make this happen, the sooner we can get on with our enquires and bring those responsible for these tragic deaths to justice.
The pair are known to have links to Northern Ireland and Ireland, as well as the road haulage and shipping industries and detectives urge anyone who has been in contact with them or has any information about where they are to get in contact with us.
"You may think your information is insignificant but even the smallest detail could be vital.
"Again I would like to express my thanks to all those who have already come forward and provided us with information." said Detective Chief Inspector Stoten.
Information can also be given 100 per cent anonymously to independent charity Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111 or by visiting crimestoppers-uk.org
Yesterday, Thursday 31 October, Police Service of Northern Ireland colleagues acted upon information received and stopped a lorry believed to be connected to Ronan and Christopher Hughes. The vehicle was subsequently seized. No further arrests were made.
We would like to thank our colleagues in PSNI and An Garda Síochána, as well as communities on both sides of the border. We will continue to work with them until Ronan and Christopher Hughes come forward or are arrested.
Update: Tuesday 29 October 2019 13:34
Detectives investigating the deaths of 39 people whose bodies were found in Grays last week are releasing details of two men they want to speak to.
Ronan Hughes, 40, from Armagh in Northern Ireland and his brother Christopher, who’s 34, and also from Armagh, are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking.
Ronan Hughes, who also goes by the name Rowan, and Christopher have links to both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
Detective Chief Superintendent Stuart Hooper, who is leading the investigation, said: “Finding and speaking to the Hughes brothers is crucial to our investigation.
“At this time we believe they are in Northern Ireland but they also have links to the Irish Republic.
“If you know where they are or have any information about their whereabouts I need you to call my team.
“This is a case where 39 men and women have tragically died and support from the community is going to be vital to help bring those responsible to justice.
“I appreciate you may not want to speak to the police so you can also contact Crimestoppers 100 per cent anonymously on 0800 555 111.”
Maurice Robinson, 25, of Laurel Drive, Craigavon, Northern Ireland, has been charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration, and money laundering and is next due to appear at the Old Bailey on 25 November.
Three other people arrested – a 38 year-old man, a 38 year-old woman, and a 46 year-old man – have all been released on bail until November.
Update: Monday 28 October 14:13
Photo: Essex Police Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington, Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price, Ambulance Interim Chief Executive officer Dorothy Hosein, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Essex Police Fire and Crime Commissioner Roger Hirst, Home Secretary Priti Patel.
Essex Police Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington was joined by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel at Thurrock Council’s offices today to sign a book of condolence following the deaths of 39 people whose bodies were found at Grays on Wednesday 23 October.
They were joined by Roger Hirst, Essex Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Jackie Doyle-Price, Thurrock MP, Rob Gledhill, Leader of Thurrock Council, and representatives from Essex County Fire & Rescue Service and East of England Ambulance Service, at the civic office in Grays where they also laid flowers in Mulberry Memorial Gardens.
Chief Constable Harrington said: “Last week our county was shaken by this tragic event. Our thoughts continue to be with all those who have lost their lives, and also with their loved ones.
“I would like thank the emergency service workers and anyone who has come together to support this investigation in such difficult and traumatic circumstances.
“Thurrock Council has kindly opened the gardens for those who wish to pay their respects to the people who lost their lives last week.
“As we have said this will be a long and complex investigation. We will do everything we can to bring those responsible to justice and would ask for patience while we ensure the identification of those who have died is carried out with dignity.”
Essex Fire and Crime Commissioner Mr Hirst said: “This is a truly tragic event and of course it has attracted a lot of attention from the media and the public. I have heard from many of our residents how shocked they have been that this has happened in our county and their heartfelt concern for the victims and their families.
“It is very important that Essex Police are being given the time and space to conduct a thorough investigation in these vital first few days. It is by letting Essex Police do what they do best, that the victims and their families will be treated with respect and we can all be confident that everything is being done that can be done to bring those responsible to justice.
“I would like to pay tribute to the work undertaken by Essex Police and our other emergency services, including Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, and partners who have worked so hard in difficult circumstances over the last few days. I would also like to thank the Home Office, National Crime Agency, Border Force and Thurrock Council for their ongoing support.
“As the investigation proceeds and we learn more about how this tragic event has happened I would ask all of you to remember the individuals involved, the victims and their families.
“We recognise the public concern around the incident and the level of impact it is having on communities and local businesses. We thank them for their support at this difficult time. We can assure them everybody is working together to achieve the outcome the victims deserve.”
“From all at Essex Police and the whole law enforcement community can we extend our sorrow for the loss to all families and loved ones. I can give the absolute commitment that we will do everything in our power to bring justice to all those who were responsible for the horrific journey that saw your loved ones end up on our shores. Our deepest sympathies, BJ Harrington, Chief Constable of Essex.” Message written in the book of condolence by Chief Constable Harrington
Update: Monday 28 October 12:00
A man charged in connection with our investigation into the deaths of 39 people whose bodies were found in Grays last week has appeared in court.
Maurice Robinson, 25, of Laurel Drive, Craigavon, Northern Ireland, appeared at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court via video link charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration, and money laundering.
He has been remanded in custody and is next due to appear at the Old Bailey on 25 November.
Update: Sunday 27 October 11:24
Three people arrested in connection with the investigation into the deaths of the 39 people whose bodies were found in Grays on Wednesday have been released on bail.
A 38 year-old man and a 38 year-old woman from Warrington were arrested in Cheshire on Friday 25 October while a 46 year-old man from Northern Ireland was arrested at Stansted Airport later the same day.
All three had been questioned on suspicion of manslaughter and conspiracy to traffic people.
The man and woman from Warrington have both been released on bail until 11 November while the man from Northern Ireland has been bailed until 13 November.
We would asked the public and media not to speculate in relation to the bail of these people or their identities.
A 25 year-old man – Maurice Robinson, of Laurel Drive, Craigavon, Northern Ireland – is due to appear at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court tomorrow (Monday 28 October) charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration, and money laundering.
We remind members of the media that criminal proceedings against Mr Robinson are now active and that he has a right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.
Update: Saturday 26 October 17:51
All of the 39 people found in the lorry have now been moved from Tilbury Docks to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford.
The process to identify them and where they are from is continuing. This process works in tandem to the investigative process – as we look to both identify those who have died and identify and preserve any forensic evidence so that we can achieve justice for each of these victims and their loved ones.
This is the largest mass fatality victim identification process in the history of Essex Police.
We are using internationally-recognised standards of identification to identify the deceased. These are known as the INTERPOL Disaster Victim Identification Standards.
Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) is the internationally accepted term for the processes and procedures for recovering and identifying deceased people and human remains in multiple fatality incidents.
The process involves bringing together antemortem and post-mortem information to make a positive identification by scientific means in a dignified manner, taking into account the needs of the investigation process, the needs of the bereaved and the needs of the community.
Victims are identified where possible, by at least one of the primary identification methods which are dental comparison, fingerprints and DNA.
Other, secondary, identification features are also taken into consideration, such as tattoos and scars. Supporting information to consider can include jewellery, clothing or property.
Once a preliminary identification has been made, trained liaison officers are deployed to support families.
These processes take place in conjunction with the Essex Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray. Both Essex Police and the coroner are committed to working as quickly as possible to identify people and repatriate them to their families.
Every victim a forensic scene. Officers are meticulously processing all the property that was with the victims and in the lorry and every item has an individual record made of it.
There are 39 victims and each appears to have a bag of some description, clothes, and other belongings.
So far we have over 500 exhibits, including mobile phones which have to be downloaded and the interrogation of mobile phones will be important for identifying the victims but also assisting the wider investigation - this needs to be done in forensic way so it will pass the evidential process for court later.
As in any instance where a mass fatality has unfolded we cannot predict how long this process will take.
Senior Identification Manager Detective Chief Inspector Martin Pasmore said:
“We are working hard to understand how the 39 victims of this tragic incident have died and to identify all those involved.
“We remain open minded as to nationalities of those who have died. We are asking anyone who may have information that may assist us in identification to come forward to us.
“If you come to us, we will do all we can to put our arm around you and take you through this process, and establish as quickly as possible whether or not we have your loved involved in this tragic incident, and try and reunite you.
“It may well be people are here illegally and they want to come forward with information or concerns, particularly if they believe their loved one is involved. We want to identify their loved ones and reunite but they are frightened.
“We understand some people may be frightened but I hope people will put trust in me and make that leap of faith – Essex Police will not look to take any action against you.
“Please make contact with my team by reporting information through our UK Police Major Incident Public Reporting site or contact our dedicated hotline on 0800 056 0944 if you live in the UK and 0044 207 158 0010 if you’re dialling internationally.
“Our thoughts remain with all those so affected by this tragedy.”
Update: Saturday 26 October 17:15
The Crown Prosecution service has authorised Essex Police to charge a man in connection with the investigating the deaths of 39 people whose bodies were found in Grays on Wednesday.
Maurice Robinson, 25, of Laurel Drive, Craigavon, Northern Ireland was arrested shortly after the discovery was made at the Waterglade Retail Park.He is due to appear at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on Monday 28 October charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering.
Three other people have been arrested in connection with this investigation.
A 38 year-old man and a 38 year-old woman from Warrington and a 48 year-old man from Northern Ireland, who were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic people and manslaughter remain in custody.
We remind members of the media that criminal proceedings against Mr Robinson are now active and that he has a right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.
Update: Friday 25 October 18:07
Statement from Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills:
“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 on Wednesday.
“I’d like to start by addressing the amount of speculation in the media and on social media surrounding our investigation.
“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.
“I strongly urge journalists and people on social media not to speculate about the identities of those involved or the circumstances surrounding this investigation.
“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.
“I can confirm we have officers working around the clock and we have now arrested a fourth person.
“A 48 year-old man from Northern Ireland was arrested at Stansted Airport earlier today on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic people and on suspicion of manslaughter.
“It follows the arrests of a 38 year-old man and a 38 year-old woman from Warrington during warrants executed in Cheshire overnight. They are currently in custody also on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic people and on suspicion of manslaughter.
“A 25 year-old man arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of murder remains in custody.
“We are working closely with the National Crime Agency, the Home Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Border Force and Immigration Enforcement.
“We have begun the process of transporting the victims from the Port of Tilbury to the mortuary at Broomfield Hospital. Formal identification processes will take place as well as the examinations to establish the causes of their deaths.
“This process is likely to be a lengthy one, but it is crucial, and we’re working with Her Majesty’s Coroner to ensure the dignity of the victims and the respect for their loved ones is at the forefront of our investigation.
“I’m acutely aware of the international interest in this case and the appetite for information.
“We will provide more updates as and when we can.
“The scene at the Waterglade Industrial Estate in Eastern Avenue has now been closed. I would like to reiterate my thanks to every person and business who has been impacted by the work we have been carrying out there since Wednesday morning.
“Finally 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. 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 555 111.“
Update: Friday 25 October 12:48
We have carried out warrants in Cheshire as part of the investigation into 39 bodies being discovered in a lorry trailer in Grays.
As a result, a 38-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman from Warrington have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic people and on suspicion of 39 counts of manslaughter.
A 25-year-old man, the driver of the lorry, remains in custody on suspicion of murder. A warrant of further detention was granted yesterday, Thursday 24 October, by local magistrates.
We would continue to ask journalists and those on social media not to speculate of the identities of anyone involved in this investigation.
Last night, Thursday 24 October, we began the movement of the victims from the Port of Tilbury to the chosen mortuary site at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford.
This is all being done in close liaison with HM Coroner and we continue to work to ensure that the dignity of victims and respect for their loved ones are at the forefront of our investigation.
The first post-mortem examinations will begin today, Friday 25 October.
Formal identification will then follow the coronial process and will be a lengthy but crucial part of this investigation. As our investigations continue, the picture may change regarding identification, and we will continue to provide updates when appropriate under the direction of HM Coroner.
Update: Thursday 24 October 2019 21:25
Our Chief Constable has released a statement following the tragedy which has unfolded in Essex.
“I am immensely proud of the way the county has come together in the wake of such a tragedy.
As the Chief Constable of Essex Police I have the utmost confidence in the dedicated women and men of this police force as we lead the murder investigation.
This is the largest investigation of its kind Essex Police has ever had to conduct and it is likely to take some considerable time to come to a conclusion.
I am grateful for the support from so many other agencies including the Red Cross and Thurrock Council at the scene providing support to my staff and officers, the NCA and the Home Office as part of the criminal investigation, the Port of Tilbury for accommodating the lorry while we recover the bodies of the victims and the local community for their understanding over the disruption the investigation is causing.
Above all I want to express my sincere condolences to the families of the 39 people who have sadly lost their lives. We will conduct this investigation with respect for every single one of those people.
If you have any information which would assist our murder investigation please call the team on 101.
If you are worried about a loved one and you reside in the UK please call us on 0800 056 0944. If you are dialling internationally, please call 0044 207 158 0010.
I hope the dedication, hard work and collaboration that Essex Police and all our partners have shown so far demonstrates to people everywhere our joint commitment to the task in hand over the days, weeks, and months ahead to bring justice for the families of those who have died.”
Update: Thursday 24 October 2019 20:08
The first 11 victims are being transported under police escort by private ambulance from the Port of Tilbury to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford having left the port at 7.41pm.
The process of victim recovery under the Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) process is likely to take some time.
The next stages will be for post-mortem examinations to be carried out.
This is all being done in liaison with HM Coroner and we continue to ensure the dignity of the victims is our primary consideration.
Update: Thursday 24 October 2019 14:38
Detectives investigating the murder of 39 people in Grays have secured a warrant of further detention from local magistrates at Basildon for a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland.
The man, a lorry driver, has been arrested on suspicion of murder and will now remain in custody for up to an additional 24 hours.
It follows the tragic discovery of the bodies of 8 women and 31 men in the trailer of a lorry in Waterglade Industrial Park, Grays, shortly before 1.40am on Wednesday 23 October.
Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills said: “We continue to ask journalists and those on social media not to speculate about the identity of the lorry driver.
“This is an incredibly sensitive and high-profile investigation, and we are working swiftly to gather as full a picture as possible as to how these people lost their lives.
“Our recovery of the bodies is ongoing and the post-mortem and identification processes, which will be lengthy and complex, can then begin.
“Our number one priority is the preserving the dignity of the 39 people who have died and ensuring that we get answers for their loved ones.”
This afternoon, Superintendent Craig Saunders and Chief Inspector Claire Talbot paid their respects with members of Thurrock Council by signing the open book of condolence at the civic office in Grays.
Our thoughts are with all those who have been impacted by this event, and our dedicated hotline for this incident remains open. If you are worried about a loved one and you reside in the UK please call us on 0800 056 0944.
If you are dialling internationally, please call 0044 207 158 0010.
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.
Our detectives are continuing their investigation into the events in Grays this morning, Wednesday 23 October.
We were called shortly after 1.40am by our colleagues in the East of England Ambulance Service to reports that, sadly, 39 people had been discovered dead in the container of a lorry at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Eastern Avenue.
Originally, we reported that the lorry had travelled into the country through Holyhead on Saturday 19 October.
After further enquiries, we now believe that the trailer travelled from Zeebrugge into Purfleet, and docked in the Thurrock area shortly after 12:30am this morning. The tractor unit of the lorry is believed to have originated in Northern Ireland.
We believe the lorry and trailer left the port shortly after 1.05am.
The driver of the lorry, a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland, remains in custody having been arrested on suspicion of murder.
A cordon has remained in place at Eastern Avenue for most of the day and this remains in place.
We thank everyone in the area, especially residents and local businesses, for their patience and compassion throughout the day.
This will be a lengthy and complex investigation and we continue to work with local partners and international authorities to gather vital intelligence and identify those who have sadly died.
We have set up a casualty bureau for people to call if they are concerned about relatives following the incident at Waterglade Industrial Park, Eastern Avenue, Grays, this morning, Wednesday 23 October.
The Casualty Bureau Numbers are 0800 056 0944 for callers living in the UK, or 0207 158 0010 for callers dialling from outside the UK.
“Shortly before 1.40am today we received reports that a number of people had been found inside a lorry's container at the Waterglade Industrial Park on Eastern Avenue in Grays. We believe the lorry is from Bulgaria and came in to the UK through Holyhead on the 19th of October.
Emergency services attended but sadly all 39 people inside the container had died. Early indications suggest that one of these people was a teenager, the rest are believed to be adults.
“A murder investigation was launched and the lorry driver, a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland, was arrested on suspicion of murder and remains in police custody.
“At this stage we have not identified where the victims are from or their identities, and we anticipate that this could be a lengthy process.
“I would like to thank the local community and in particular those who have been directly affected by the police cordon at the industrial site.
“Thank you for your cooperation. I appreciate the impact the road closure will have on businesses within the cordon.
“I’m unable to say at this stage how long the cordon will be in place but please let me reassure you that my officers and partners will be doing everything they can to release the scene as soon as possible.
“This is an absolute tragedy and very sad day for Essex Police and the local community. We will continue to work alongside many other partner agencies to find out what led to these deaths.
“I would like to appeal for anyone who has any information to contact my officers at the Major Investigation Team on 101 or visit our website. We will update all of our channels as we are able to, but please appreciate we are in the early stages of what is likely to be a lengthy investigation.”
Original release: Wednesday 23 October 2019 09:23
Emergency services arrived but sadly, 39 people were pronounced dead at the scene. Early indications suggest 38 are adults and one aged in their teens.
A 25-year-old-man from Northern Ireland has been arrested on suspicion of murder.
Chief Superintendent Andrew Mariner said: "This is a tragic incident where a large number of people have lost their lives. Our enquiries are ongoing to establish what has happened.
"We are in the process of identifying the victims, however I anticipate that this could be a lengthy process.
"We believe the lorry is from Bulgaria and entered the country at Holyhead on Saturday 19 October and we are working closely with our partners to investigate.
"We have arrested the lorry driver in connection with the incident who remains in police custody as our enquiries continue. I appreciate this cordon is going to disrupt the activity of local businesses in the area and we will work to ensure that disruption is kept as short as possible. We are working with Thurrock Council to mitigate against any impact our investigation scene will have locally."
A cordon has been put in place and access to and from the Waterglade Industrial Park remains closed.