Essex lorry deaths: Johnson signs book of condolence
Prime minister pledges to do everything he can to bring those responsible to justice
British prime minister Boris Johnson signs a book of condolence for the 39 people who died in a trailer. Photograph: Getty
The prime minister was joined at Thurrock Civic Offices by home secretary Priti Patel and senior members of the Essex emergency services to pay their respects to the victims.
All the dignitaries signed a book of condolence before laying wreaths in the Mulberry garden outside.
The bodies of eight women and 31 men were discovered by police in the refrigerated trailer on the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays in the early hours of Wednesday last week.
In his message, the prime minister wrote: “The whole nation and indeed the world has been shocked by this tragedy and the cruelty of the fate that has been suffered by innocent people who were hoping for a better life in this country.
“We mourn those who lost their lives. Our thoughts are with their families far away. In condemning the callousness of those responsible for this crime, we in the government of the United Kingdom resolve to do everything in our power to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Also attending were Essex Police chief constable Ben-Julian Harrington, Thurrock Council leader Rob Gledhill, East of England Ambulance Service chief executive Dorothy Hosein, chief fire officer for Essex Jo Turton, Essex police, fire and crime commissioner Roger Hirst and Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price.
Mr Johnson made no comment about the incident as he left the garden.
Essex Police say they are working on the largest mass fatality victim identification process in their history.
Mr Harrington praised the actions of local forces in the investigation so far as “exemplary”.
Ms Doyle-Price said more should be done to manage checks at departing ports and the people who were “playing Russian roulette” with the lives of innocent people.
The visit came on the same day that the Northern Irish driver of the lorry, Maurice Robinson (25) appeared via video link at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court, charged with 39 counts of manslaughter.
He was remanded in custody and will appear at the Old Bailey next month.
It was initially believed the victims inside the container were Chinese, but dozens of Vietnamese families have since reported missing relatives whom they suspect to be among the dead.
China’s assistant foreign minister Chen Xiaodong said the case needed to be “properly resolved by all parties concerned” to prevent a repeat of the tragedy.
The exact route of the lorry is not yet known, though Belgian officials said the trailer arrived at Zeebrugge at 2.49pm on Tuesday and left the port the same day en route to Purfleet.
The lorry left the port at Purfleet shortly after 1.05am before police were called to the industrial park in Grays at 1.40am. - PA