Three people arrested in connection with the deaths of 39 people whose bodies were found in a refrigerated trailer in Essex in the UK have been released on bail. The suspects, two men and a woman, had been held on suspicion of manslaughter and conspiracy to traffic people after the discovery in Grays last Wednesday.
Lorry driver Maurice Robinson, 25, originally from Northern Ireland, was arrested shortly after the discovery was made and charged by police on Saturday.
“He is due to appear at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on Monday 28 October charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering,” Essex police said.
“Three other people have been arrested in connection with this investigation,” the police added.
“A 38-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman from Warrington and a 48-year-old man from Northern Ireland, who were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic people and manslaughter, remain in custody.”
A parallel investigation in the Republic of Ireland has led to the arrest of a man in Dublin aged 20-30, who may be “of interest” in connection with the deaths in Essex.
The refrigerated trailer, registered in Bulgaria, made the ferry crossing from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Purfleet in England where it arrived shortly after midnight and was picked up by Maurice Robinson’s truck which arrived in the UK from Ireland via Holyhead port in Wales.
The investigation has now turned its attention to identifying the victims. Initially it was thought that they were all Chinese migrants, but police later said their nationalities were “a developing picture” amid reports that several may be Vietnamese.
“Although we can’t speculate at this time on the nationality of our victims, it’s clear from everybody that we are getting a large amount of engagement from the Vietnamese population, from communities home and abroad,” detective chief inspector Martin Pasmore said at a press conference on Saturday.
Human trafficking expert Bernie Gravett told the BBC that identifying the bodies would be a difficult process because human trafficking victims were usually issued with false documents.
“These lorries are coming through on a weekly basis, we have just found one, others get through undetected and the victims then go on to be exploited in the UK,” Gravett said.