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ESSEX Police has set up a hotline for people to call if they are concerned about their relatives, following the discovery of 39 dead bodies at a Thurrock industrial estate.
Police were called to the Waterglade Industrial Park in the early hours of this morning after the bodies were found in the back of a lorry.
The force said initial information suggested the lorry contained 38 deceased adults and one deceased teenager.
Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills called the incident ‘an absolute tragedy’.
A cordon was set up this morning and access to the industrial park was closed off while investigators collect evidence.
Police have now set up a ‘casualty bureau’, which people can call if they have concerns that their loved ones may be among the dead.
The number for people within the UK is 0800 056 0944.
The number for people outside the UK is 0207 158 0010.
Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills has released the following statement:
“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 into the UK through Holyhead on October 19.
“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.”
Police 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.