Major Incident in Essex

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:59 pm on 23rd October 2019.

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Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department 12:59 pm, 23rd October 2019

Following the tragic discovery of 39 bodies in a shipping container in Essex this morning, I want to take this opportunity to update the House on the facts that are available so far.

At 1.40 this morning, Essex police were alerted to an incident at the Waterglade industrial park on Eastern Avenue, Grays. At the scene, Essex police discovered a lorry container with 39 bodies inside. Early indications suggest that 38 of those found were adults and that one was a teenager. From what the police have been able to ascertain so far, the vehicle is believed to be from Bulgaria and to have entered the country at Holyhead in north Wales, one of the main ports for ferries from Ireland, on 19 October.

Essex police have now launched a murder investigation. A 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland has been arrested on suspicion of murder. He remains in police custody as inquiries continue.

The whole House will agree that this is a truly shocking incident. My thoughts and condolences are with the victims and their loved ones at this utterly terrible time. I am sure the whole House will convey its condolences at this sad time.

While the nationalities of the victims are not yet known, I have asked my officials to work closely with the investigation and to provide all the assistance we can in these horrific circumstances. That is on top of the joint working that is taking place already between the police, Border Force, Immigration Enforcement, the National Crime Agency and other law enforcement agencies to ascertain exactly how the incident occurred. Day in and day out, they work tirelessly to secure our borders against a wide range of threats, including people trafficking. We will continue to work with international partners to keep people safe.

This is a tragic loss of life. I and everyone in my team will continue to update the House as more facts on this dreadful incident become known.