All 39 people found dead in a container truck near an English port were Chinese citizens, British police confirmed Thursday as they pressed to investigate one of the country’s deadliest cases of people smuggling.
The Essex Police force said 31 men and eight women were found dead in the truck early Wednesday at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, a town 40 kilometres east of London. The force says one victim previously thought to be a teenager was instead a young adult woman.
The 25-year-old truck driver, who is from Northern Ireland, is being questioned on suspicion of attempted murder but has not been charged. Police in Northern Ireland have searched three properties as they sought to piece together the journey of the truck and the victims.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry posted a statement on its social media account saying that Chinese embassy employees in the U.K. were driving to the scene of the crime to aid the investigation.
Britain remains an attractive destination for immigrants, even as the U.K. is negotiating its divorce from the European Union. Upon hearing of the deaths, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed in Parliament on Wednesday that people smugglers would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.