A man, believed to be from the Portadown area, has been arrested in Essex after the bodies of 39 people were found in a lorry.
Police in Essex said they were called by ambulance service colleagues in the early hours of today (Wednesday) after a lorry container with people inside was found at Grays.
It is not known at this stage how the people died.
The refrigerated truck the bodies were found in is registered in Bulgaria to a company owned by an Irish woman, according to the Bulgarian Foreign Minister, Reuters news agency reported.
Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills said: “Shortly before 1.40am 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.”
Jonathan Buckley MLA said he was ‘shocked to the core’ by this morning’s incident in Essex.
“This is a devastating loss of life and I trust that the authorities will be able to establish what exactly has happened in their ongoing investigations.
“My deepest and most sincere thoughts and prayers go out to all that have been impacted by this tragedy.
“In unimaginable circumstances such as this, we have to pay tribute to our emergency services.”