All 39 people found dead in a refrigerated trailer vehicle in Essex on Wednesday are understood to have been Chinese nationals.
Police have said 31 men and 8 women were found in the trailer, which arrived in the UK early on Wednesday morning. The trailer is understood to have travelled from the coastal village of Zeebrugge in Belgium, though exact details of the route of the vehicle remain under investigation.
According to reports, preliminary investigations by the Belgian federal prosecutor showed that the container had arrived in Zeebrugge at 14:49 local time on Tuesday, and it left the port the same day, arriving at Purfleet in Essex at 01:00 local time on Wednesday morning. Ambulance workers alerted police to the discovery of the bodies at 01:49 on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the Chinese embassy in London said;
“We read with a heavy heart the reports about the death of 39 people in Essex, England. We are in close contact with the British police to seek clarification and confirmation of the relevant reports.”
It remains unclear quite how or when the victims were first placed/entered into the container. Unconfirmed reports have suggested the victims could have frozen to death in the container, which is thought to operate at temperatures as low as -25C.
Three addresses have been searched in Northern Ireland in connection to the investigation, and are thought to be linked to the driver of the vehicle.
Police have begun the process of moving the bodies and post-mortem examinations are expected to follow.