he 39 people found dead in the back of a lorry in Essex were Chinese nationals, police have confirmed.
31 men and 8 women were discovered in the refrigerated lorry trailer in Grays, Essex, on Wednesday.
Police are continuing to question a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland on suspicion of murder.
Two addresses in Co Armagh were searched last night, believed to be linked to the arrest of the driver, named locally as Mo Robinson, from Portadown.
He remains in custody for questioning by Essex Police on suspicion of murder.
A police statement said: “The lorry has since been removed from the industrial park to allow the next stage of our investigative process to be conducted in peace, and to give the utmost dignity to those within the trailer as we prepare for a coroner’s post-mortem examination.
“Each of the 39 people must undergo a full coroner’s process to establish a cause of death, before we move on to attempting to identify each individual within the trailer. This will be a substantial operation and, at this stage, we cannot estimate how long these procedures will take.
“Local residents and businesses have shown us the utmost kindness and respect as we deal with this difficult and sensitive investigation. Thank you for patience, your offers for cups of tea for our hardworking teams, for the flowers that have started to appear in Eastern Avenue, and the signatures we know will appear in the Book of Condolences at the Civic Centre.
“We would also like to thank all of our local and national partners for their assistance and support, especially the Red Cross who gave our officers a quiet place to go when they needed a moment, and Thurrock Council who have continued to help us ensure that disruption to the local community is minimal.
“We will continue to work with partners and other law enforcement agencies to establish exactly how these 39 people lost their lives in such an untimely way. This process will be complex and lengthy, as well as incredibly challenging for all those involved, but we will not stop until we get answers for the loved ones of those who have sadly died.”
Detectives have said the trailer containing the victims arrived at Purfleet from Zeebrugge in Belgium at around 12.30am on Wednesday and the front section to which it was attached, known as the tractor, came from Northern Ireland.
The lorry and trailer left the port at Purfleet shortly after 1.05am and officers were called around 30 minutes later after ambulance staff made the grim discovery at Waterglade Industrial Park in Eastern Avenue in nearby Grays.
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