The bodies of 39 people, 38 adults and one teenager, have been found in a truck container in Essex, according to Essex Police.
The police say that they believe the trailer of the truck crossed into the port of Purfleet in eastern England via Zeebrugge, Belgium.
After arriving on British soil, it docked in the Thurrock area at around 12:30 am local time for around 35 minutes before it took off again.
Essex Police Chief Superintendent Andrew Mariner stated that law enforcement have not identified exactly where the victims are from.
“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", Chief Superintendent Andrew Mariner said as quoted by the Huffington Post.
A 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland has been arrested on suspicion of murder, police say.
“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", Chief Superintendent Andrew Mariner stated.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he is "appalled by this tragic incident in Essex".
I’m appalled by this tragic incident in Essex. 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.— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) October 23, 2019
British Home Secretary Priti Patel has stated that she is "shocked and saddened" at the news about the bodies in the container.
Shocked & saddened by this utterly tragic incident in Grays. Essex Police has arrested an individual and we must give them the space to conduct their investigations.— Priti Patel MP (@patel4witham) October 23, 2019
Meanwhile, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told the parliament's lower house that Dublin will investigate the matter if it is proven that the vehicle truly drove through country.
"It is a real terrible and human tragedy, and we will carry out any investigations that are necessary if it’s established that the truck did pass through Ireland", he said.
Varadkar added that the Irish authorities will advise the country's drivers to be vigilant and conduct their own checks to avoid such incidents.
Bulgarian Foreign Ministry Checking Information on Truck with 39 Bodies
The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry has stated that the truck in which the UK police found the dead bodies was registered in Bulgaria by a firm owned by a female Irish citizen.
According to Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, the truck has not entered Bulgaria since 2017. Borissov added that Bulgaria has no connection with the deadly incident in the UK apart from the vehicle's registration.
The United Kingdom's rising crime rates, especially knife crime, has been in the public spotlight over the past few months. Lawmakers have blamed the UK prime minister's public funding cuts, which have led to a reduction in police numbers, for the trend. Former UK Prime Minister Theresa May has denied that there is a connection between the cutbacks and increasing knife crime.