Evgen_Prozhyrko/iStock(LONDON) — A murder investigation has been launched after 39 dead bodies were discovered in a semi tractor-trailer near London, police said Wednesday.
Emergency services were called to an industrial park in Grays, Essex, at around 1:40 a.m. local time, when the vehicle was discovered to have people inside. Thirty-nine people, one of whom was a teenager according to early indications, were pronounced dead at the scene.
A 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland has been arrested on suspicion of murder in connection with the deaths.
The vehicle is believed to have originated from Bulgaria and entered the U.K. via the town of Holyhead on Oct. 19, police said. A cordon has been placed around the industrial park and an investigation has begun to identify the victims and determine the exact circumstances behind the deaths. The Home Office, the government department responsible for domestic security and immigration, will be working with Essex police on the investigation.
"This is a tragic incident where a large number of people have lost their lives," Chief Superintendent Andrew Mariner said in a statement. "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 have arrested the lorry driver in connection with the incident who remains in police custody as our enquiries continue," he added.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the news as "tragic," and said he was receiving regular updates from the authorities as they piece together what happened.
"I’m appalled by this tragic incident in Essex," he tweeted. "I am receiving regular updates and the Home Office will work closely with Essex Police as we establish exactly what has happened. My thoughts are with all those who lost their lives & their loved ones."
Jackie Doyle-Price, the local Member of Parliament, described the incident as "sickening" and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
"Sickening news of 39 people found dead in a container in Grays," she posted in a tweet. "People trafficking is a vile and dangerous business. This is a big investigation for @EssexPoliceUK. Lets hope they bring these murderers to justice."
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