In a tragedy pointing to human trafficking, 38 adults and one teenager were found frozen to death in a refrigerated lorry container on an industrial estate in England on Wednesday, reports say.
Police did not confirm whether it was a case of trafficking but they believe the lorry is from Bulgaria and it entered the country at the port city of Holyhead in North Wales via Belfast and Dublin on Oct 19.
Ambulance workers discovered the white shipping container with bodies at Waterglade Industrial Park in the town of Grays in Thurrock area and called Essex police at 1.40am.
Police arrested the driver, a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland, and remanded him in custody on suspicion of murder.
Chief Superintendent Andrew Mariner said police are in the lengthy process of identifying the victims. They have started investigation on how the deaths occurred, who were responsible for ferrying the victims to England and how they managed it.
A top official linked to road haulage industry in the UK told PA news agency that the lorry may have travelled on a ferry from Cherbourg, France, to Rosslare in the Republic of Ireland, then drove to Dublin from where it took another ferry to Holyhead and hit the road to reach Kent.
This is a long-winding but safe route unlike the strait route on ferry from Calais port in northern France to Dover in Kent where lorry containers are subjected to rigorous checks because of illegal immigration.
If the container is a refrigerated unit, the victims might have frozen to death quickly.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was a heart-breaking tragedy.
Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price hoped the perpetrators will be quickly brought to justice.
Bulgaria’s foreign ministry said officials are checking the information published in the British media.
Thousands of illegal migrants are trafficked into Britain on trucks, ships and planes every year.
In 2000, 58 Chinese people were found dead in a shipping container at Dover.