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Bodies of 58 Chinese migrants found in lorry at Dover in 2000

This morning's discovery of 39 bodies in the back of a lorry brings back tragic memories of a similar incident 19 years ago.

On June 18 2000, just before midnight, 58 dead bodies were found in a Dutch lorry at Dover Docks. Two people survived the ordeal.

Police at the scene in Thurrock today Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Police at the scene in Thurrock today Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Investigations found the lorry had travelled from Zeebrugge in Belgium.

It was later determined the Chinese migrants were trapped in the container for 18 hours and likely died of asphyxiation, although carbon monoxide poisoning was a possible cause of death.

The driver, 33-year-old Perry Wacker from Rotterdam, was sentenced to 14 years in prison at Maidstone Crown Court the following year for his part in a people smuggling operation coordinated by a Chinese gang.

A court heard he'd closed the only air vent to the container.

Nine members of the gang were later jailed for their part in the tragedy.

Dover Eastern Docks where 58 migrants were found dead in 2000
Dover Eastern Docks where 58 migrants were found dead in 2000

The 56 men and four women set off from China weeks before the lorry entered the UK, having each paid £20,000 to a Chinese snakehead gang.

They were each given a code number and began their journey by flying to Belgrade on legal Chinese documents.

In Belgrade they were taken to a safe house and given fake Asian passports before being taken into Hungary and smuggled through Austria and France and in to the Netherlands where they were again taken to a safe house.

It was in Rotterdam where they would be crammed into a lorry full of tomatoes and sent on the final stretch of their arduous journey.

The details were recounted to the court in harrowing detail by the two survivors of the journey, Su Di Ke, 20, and Ke Shi Guang, 22.

Police have found 39 bodies in a lorry at Thurrock. Picture: UKNIP
Police have found 39 bodies in a lorry at Thurrock. Picture: UKNIP

They explained when they left the Dutch city of Rotterdam the air vent was tied open and they were given four buckets of water for the journey.

The vent was closed by Wacker before he left Belgium to avoid the migrants being spotted.

They were trapped inside the air tight container for more than nine hours on one of the hottest days of the year.

The two survivors were the last loaded in to the lorry and were dragged out barely concious at Dover.

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