The 39 people found dead in the back of a lorry in Essex were Chinese men and women, it is understood.
The lorry driver, named locally as Mo Robinson, 25, from Portadown, County Armagh, continues to be questioned by police on suspicion of murder.
Officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland raided two addresses in Markethill, County Armagh, and Laurelvale on Wednesday night.
It is believed the victims slowly froze to death in the refrigerated container before being discovered in the early hours of Wednesday morning at an industrial park in Grays.
The grim discovery of 39 bodies, believed to include one teenager, was made an hour after the trailer arrived in Purfleet, a short distance from the intu Lakeside shopping centre and the M25 Dartford Crossing.
Deputy chief constable of Essex Police, Pippa Mills, said the vehicle had been moved to a secure site at Tilbury Docks so the bodies of the victims could be recovered while preserving their dignity.
Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, said those inside would have frozen to death in “horrendous conditions” if the refrigeration had been switched on as it would be “dark and if the fridge is running it’s going to be incredibly cold”.
He said anyone trapped in such conditions could be killed “pretty quickly.”
The controls for the refrigeration unit are on the outside of the lorry, he added.
Police have explained that the tractor unit – the front portion of the lorry – came from Northern Ireland and picked up the trailer from Purfleet.
The tractor and trailer then left the port shortly before 1:05am on Wednesday before officers were called half-an-hour later by the ambulance service.
Speaking at a press conference, deputy chief constable Mills said nationalities of the victims were still unknown and that identifying them was their “number one priority” but could be “a lengthy process”.
She urged anyone with information about the lorry to contact the major investigations team at Essex Police.
The National Crime Agency said it has sent officers to assist and identify any “organised crime groups who may have played a part”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson described it as an “unimaginable tragedy” which was “truly heartbreaking.”
He said all such traders in human beings “should be hunted down and brought to justice.”
In 2000, the bodies of 58 Chinese people were found in a container at Dover, Kent.
Seven men were jailed by a Dutch court for their role in the human smuggling operation that led to the young people suffocating and the Dutch lorry driver was jailed for 14 years. (Newsnow.co.uk)
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