Security footage captured yesterday morning by Big Blue Squirrel Self Storage in Grays, England, shows a large truck that authorities say was carrying 39 dead bodies. The footage was recorded at 1:13 a.m., about 30 minutes before police found the truck on Eastern Avenue, around the corner from the storage facility. Investigators have arrested the truck driver, 25-year-old Mo Robinson from Northern Ireland, on suspicion of murder, according to a source. Officials appear to be approaching the incident as a human-smuggling operation gone wrong.
The closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage shows the tractor trailer (referred to by the British as a “lorry”) traveling past the storage location with its lights on, though the driver cannot be seen in the video. When paramedics arrived at the scene inside Waterglade Industrial Park, they found the bodies of 38 adults and one teenager in the truck container. The identities of the victims have not yet been released. Essex County police described the scene as an “absolute tragedy.”
The truck’s flatbed was registered in Bulgaria, while the tractor is from Northern Ireland. Essex police indicated the vehicle arrived into Purfleet on the River Thames from Zeebrugge, Belgium. The ship docked around 12:30 a.m. The vehicle and container left the port about 35 minutes later, investigators said.
The container appeared to be a refrigerated unit capable of reaching temperatures as low as -25 degrees Celsius, according to Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, who called the incident “absolutely horrendous.”
“The Scania truck was registered in Varna under the name of a company owned by an Irish citizen,” a spokesperson for the Bulgarian foreign affairs ministry told the BBC. “Police said that it is highly unlikely that [the bodies found in the container] are Bulgarians.”
British media have described the incident as one of the largest murder investigations in U.K. history.
“It makes me a bit feel sick watching that footage knowing those people were on board,” Big Blue Squirrel Manager Sana Mirza told a source. “It’s shocking to know that someone drove past with a lorry load of bodies on there. We are shocked and disturbed by it because it’s happened on our doorstep. It isn’t just one person, it’s 39. All I have been thinking about is the last person who was alive on there and what they must have been thinking.”
Police have asked for witnesses and anyone with information about the truck’s route to come forward.