A trailer in which 39 migrants were found dead made two stops in the same area where the discovery was made after returning from a trip to Belgium in the preceding days.
It is understood that GPS data shows the refrigerated trailer made the two stops in Thurrock, close to the industrial estate at Grays in Essex where the bodies were found in the early hours of Wednesday, October 23rd. While a precise timeline is not known, the previous trip is thought to have occurred between October 17th and 22nd.
The data indicates that the trailer made two return trips between Britain and Europe in the days leading up to the discovery, the second of which culminated in the find.
The first departure is understood to have taken place from Dover, with the trailer then making stops in different Belgian towns.
It then briefly crossed into France, stopping in border regions, and then again in Dunkirk, sources said. When it returned to the UK the first time, it twice stopped in Thurrock near the Grays area.
Sources said the trailer was then tagged close to Purfleet, the Essex port which services Belgium, before appearing again on the continent, following a similar pattern through Belgium, into France, and back to the UK.
The final stops the trailer made before its last voyage took place near Dunkirk, before the trailer passed back into Flanders.
Its next recorded stop is on Eastern Avenue, near Grays in Essex, where the discovery of the bodies was made.
The Irish Times has established that during this time the trailer was leased by its owner, Global Trailer Rentals (GTR), to a Co
The lease document was signed by Ronan Hughes, who gave an address matching that of the haulier, C Hughes Transport.
It is understood that Mr Hughes is related to the directors of this company. Efforts to seek comment from the Hughes haulage firm, which was wound up in 2017, were unsuccessful.
The Irish Times visited the business address of the firm on Friday, and was told the address was incorrect. A truck in C Hughes livery was visible at the address.
The GPS data from the trailer shows that one of its first recorded stops was at a crossroads near the business address for the haulage firm.
After this, the trailer travelled into Northern Ireland, before crossing to the UK from Dublin Port. Once in Britain, it crossed the country to Dover, before appearing again in Belgium. The trailer began its journey on Tuesday, October 15th, before making the crossing from Dublin to Holyhead the following evening. It traced its various routes around the UK and mainland Europe in the period between October 17th and 22nd, when it made its final journey from Zeebrugge to Purfleet.
GTR said on Thursday it was “entirely unaware that the trailer was to be used in the manner in which it appears to have been”.
Danny McNamee, a solicitor acting for GTR, said the first his client became aware of the incident was when an acquaintance recognised the badge on the trailer in news footage. “The first he heard of it was when he received a Whataspp message advising him that his trailer had been involved in the incident,” he said.
Full details of the routes taken by the trailer have been passed to Essex Police, as have details of the lessee of the trailer.