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Driver charged after 39 lorry deaths in Essex near Dartford Crossing

ByGeoffrey Bew

Police have charged a truck driver following the death of 39 migrants inside the back of a refrigerated lorry near the Dartford Crossing.

A murder investigation was launched when the bodies were found on Wednesday at the Waterglade Retail Park in Grays.

Police at the scene of the grim discovery in Thurrock, Essex Picture: UKNIP
Police at the scene of the grim discovery in Thurrock, Essex Picture: UKNIP

Essex Police today confirmed Maurice Robinson, who was arrested shortly after the grim discovery, has been charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration, and money laundering.

The 25-year-old, of Laurel Drive, Craigavon in Northern Ireland, is due to appear at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court on Monday.

Three other people arrested in connection with the investigation have been released on bail until next month.

A 38-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman from Warrington and a 46-year-old man from Northern Ireland, have been questioned on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic people and manslaughter.

Meanwhile, police confirmed all 39 victims found in the lorry have now been moved from Tilbury Docks to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford.

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The process to identify them and where they are from is continuing.

Officers say it is the largest mass fatality victim identification process in the history of Essex Police.

The bodies are being identified where possible, by at least one of the primary identification methods which are dental comparison, fingerprints, and DNA.

Other, secondary, identification features are also taken into consideration, such as tattoos and scars.

Police said each of the 39 victims appears to have been carrying a bag that contained clothes, and other belongings.

They say more than 500 items of importance, including mobile phones, have been recovered from lorry.

A police blockade remained at the Waterglade Industrial Estate in Eastern Avenue
A police blockade remained at the Waterglade Industrial Estate in Eastern Avenue

Senior Identification manager, detective chief inspector Martin Pasmore, said: "We are working hard to understand how the 39 victims of this tragic incident have died and to identify all those involved.

“We remain open minded as to nationalities of those who have died.

"If you come to us, we will do all we can to put our arm around you and take you through this process, and establish as quickly as possible whether or not we have your loved involved in this tragic incident, and try and reunite you.

"It may well be people are here illegally and they want to come forward with information or concerns, particularly if they believe their loved one is involved.

"We understand some people may be frightened but I hope people will put trust in me and make that leap of faith – Essex Police will not look to take any action against you."

Police at the scene of the grim discovery in Thurrock, Essex Picture: UKNIP
Police at the scene of the grim discovery in Thurrock, Essex Picture: UKNIP

“Please make contact with my team by reporting information through our portal https://mipp.police.uk or contact our dedicated hotline on 0800 056 0944 if you live in the UK and 0044 207 158 0010 if you’re dialling internationally."

Detectives earlier said the 31 of the migrants were men and eight were women.

They were initially thought to have all been Chinese, but other nationalities could have also been victims.

The development means the horrific case echoes even more with the death of 58 Chinese migrants, found in the back of a lorry at Dover in 2000.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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