The lorry driver at the centre of a murder investigation ‘passed out’ when he found 39 bodies in his vehicle, reports suggest.
Earlier, sources revealed all of those found dead in the back of the lorry in Essex were Chinese nationals.
This afternoon Essex Police said they would hold the driver, named locally as Mo Robinson, 25, from Portadown, in custody for up to 24 hours more.
The dead included 31 men and eight women, the force added.
A witness told the Evening Standard that the driver fainted when he opened the refrigerator unit – though the claim has not been verified. Meanwhile, Police have searched two addresses in Northern Ireland in connection with the discovery in a refrigerated lorry.
The searches in Co Armagh on Wednesday night are believed to be linked to the arrest of the driver. He remains in custody for questioning on suspicion of murder.
Councillor Paul Berry said the village of Laurelvale, where the Robinson family live, was in ‘complete shock’. Detectives have said the trailer containing the victims arrived at Purfleet from Zeebrugge in Belgium at around 12.30am on Wednesday and the front section to which it was attached, known as the tractor, came from Northern Ireland.
The lorry and trailer left the port at Purfleet shortly after 1.05am and officers were called around 30 minutes later after ambulance staff made the grim discovery at Waterglade Industrial Park in Eastern Avenue in nearby Grays. Eric Van Duyse, a spokesman for the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office, said that Brussels had started an investigation into the incident. He added: ‘We have no idea at the moment how long the lorry spent in Belgium, it could be hours or days, we just don’t know.’