Detectives investigating the tragic deaths of 39 Vietnamese citizens found in the back of a lorry in Essex say they suffocated after being starved of oxygen and over-heating.
The bodies of 31 male and eight female migrants were found in a refrigerated container in Grays Industrial park on October 23, sparking the biggest murder investigation since the 2005 London suicide bombing.
A post-mortem examination into each victim found hypoxia and hyperthermia (overheating) in an enclosed space was the provisional cause of death.
Maurice Robinson, 25, the driver of the lorry, alerted police to the grim discovery and was later charged with 39 counts of manslaughter and human trafficking.
Another lorry driver, Eeaom Harrison, 22, is being extradited to the UK from the Republic of Ireland after an arrest warrant was made in the early days of the police investigation.
He also faces 39 counts of manslaughter and human trafficking charges, and will appear at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court tomorrow.
Seven arrests have been made in connection with the deaths across Europe, including two new suspects who are being held by Essex police.
Officers said they are continuing to progress ‘hundreds of lines of enquiry’ and are working with law enforcement agencies from across the globe to further their ‘lengthy and complex investigation.’
A 22-year-old man was arrested in Northern Ireland on Sunday February 9 on suspicion of manslaughter and facilitating unlawful immigration. He is currently in custody in Essex.
Last week, on the instruction of Essex Police, German authorities and the National Crime Agency carried out an arrest in connection with the investigation.
Gheorghe Nica, 43, was detained at Frankfurt Airport on Wednesday 29 January.
He also faces charges of 39 counts of manslaughter and one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration
A statement from Essex police said: ‘As our investigation progresses, we are keen to hear from anyone who has knowledge of two similar journeys that haulage vehicles made into Purfleet on Friday 11 and Friday 18 October 2019.
‘It is believed that lorries were used to facilitate the unlawful entry of people into the country via Purfleet. We believe that these people, or anyone who had knowledge of the journeys, has crucial information to assist our inquiry.’
Ten teenagers, including two 15-year-old boys, were among the bodies discovered in the container.
Emergency services had been called to an industrial estate in Essex shortly after a lorry arrived on a ferry from Zeebrugge in Belgium.
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