Police in the UK have arrested two more people over the deaths of 39 people found in a truck trailer in Essex this week, as authorities push ahead with one of the country’s biggest mass murder investigations.
A man and woman, both aged 38 and from Warrington, were arrested in Cheshire in the north of England on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic people and manslaughter, Essex police said on Friday.
The arrests come after a 25 year old man from Northern Ireland was arrested at the scene in Grays, on suspicion of murder in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
The man, who had been driving the lorry, remained in custody on Friday after police were given a further 24 hours to question him on Thursday.
The latest incident is likely to evoke comparisons with others around Europe in which migrants have suffocated after hiding in trucks. The loss of life is the highest in the UK since 2000, when 58 people were found dead near Dover in the back of a truck that had arrived from the Netherlands.
The bodies were discovered just after 1am on Wednesday when an ambulance crew called in the police to investigate the trailer after the lorry had stopped about a mile from the port on an industrial estate near Grays in Essex, 23 miles east of London.
The tractor unit that was towing the trailer entered the UK on Sunday at the port of Holyhead, north Wales, off a ferry from Dublin, police have said.
The trailer arrived separately at the ferry terminal at Purfleet, in Essex, from Zeebrugge, in Belgium. The tractor unit picked the trailer up from the dockside and left the port at 1.05am on Wednesday. The port is about a mile from where the bodies were discovered, on the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays.
Police said on Thursday the victims were Chinese nationals.
On Friday they said they had begun to move the 39 bodies from the Port of Tilbury to a mortuary site at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford. Post mortem examinations were expected to begin today, followed by formal identification of the victims, which police said “will be a lengthy but crucial part of this investigation”.