Thirty-nine bodies have been found in a lorry container in Essex, police have said.

The discovery of 38 adults and one teenager was made at an industrial estate in Thurrock.

Police said they believed the lorry had come from Bulgaria and entered the UK at Holyhead, in north Wales, on Saturday. The port is one of the main entry points for ferries from Ireland.

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Essex Police said it had launched a murder investigation after its officers were called to Waterglade Industrial Park, in Grays, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

A 25-year-old-man from Northern Ireland has been arrested on suspicion of murder.

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1/50 22 October 2019

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2/50 21 October 2019

Hundreds of students take part in the traditional Raisin Monday foam fight on St Salvator’s Lower College Lawn at the University of St Andrews in Fife. The messy display is the culmination of a weekend of festivities where first years say thank you to their more senior student “parents” for mentoring them

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European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson shake hands during a news conference after agreeing on a Brexit deal, in Brussels
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9/50 14 October 2019

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10/50 13 October 2019

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14/50 9 October 2019

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16/50 7 October 2019

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A car drives through a flooded street in Whitley Bay in Northumberland
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19/50 4 October 2019

A 12ft sculpture of a gorilla, entitled ‘Gorilla Apocalypse’, created by Luke Kite entirely from scrap car bumpers and panels discarded in the last decade is on display at the British Ironwork Centre in Oswestry, Shropshire
Police stands in front of the Treasury building during an Extinction Rebellion protest in London

21/50 2 October 2019

Ex-Thomas Cook employees demonstrate in London after delivering a petition calling for a full inquiry into Thomas Cook’s collapse and for the company’s directors to pay back their bonuses
A road in Alum Rock, Birmingham is flooded after persistent heavy rain
Two tourists pose for pictures in front of Union and EU flags outside the Houses of Parliament in London

24/50 29 September 2019

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25/50 28 September 2019

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26/50 27 September 2019

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27/50 26 September 2019

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28/50 25 September 2019

Tributes for former Rangers player Fernando Ricksen at Ibrox Stadium. Today, the funeral procession will pass Ibrox Stadium before making the journey to Wellington Church

29/50 24 September 2019

A person dressed as a caricature of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a prison uniform stands outside the Supreme Court after it ruled that his decision to suspend Parliament was illegal

30/50 23 September 2019

Thomas Cook aircraft are parked up at Manchester Airport on the day they collapsed after rescue talks failed. A total of 22,000 jobs – including 9,000 in UK – are to be lost following administration. More than 150,000 British holidaymakers need to be brought home, with the government and CAA hiring dozens of charter planes to fly customers home free of charge

31/50 22 September 2019

Fire performer Penella Bee performs before people take part in the North East Skinny Dip at Druridge Bay in Nothumberland, an annual event that marks the Autumn Equinox and raises money for MIND – the Mental Health Charity

32/50 21 September 2019

Protesters gather for a march and rally organised by “The People’s Vote” in Brighton, to call for politicians to give the public a final say referendum on Brexit

33/50 20 September 2019

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34/50 19 September 2019

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36/50 17 September 2019

Protesters dressed as the Incredible Hulk and Robocop outside the Supreme Court in London where judges are due to consider legal challenges to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament. The Supreme Court will hear appeals over three days from two separate challenges to the prorogation of Parliament brought in England and Scotland

37/50 16 September 2019

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38/50 15 September 2019

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Activists from PETA stage a demonstration outside a venue during London Fashion Week in London, Britain
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42/50 11 September 2019

Storm clouds gather over the pier just off the North East coast at South Shields
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46/50 7 September 2019

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47/50 6 September 2019

A bull bumps into a plain clothes police officer (left) while being walked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his visit to Darnford Farm in Banchory near Aberdeen. It coincided with the publication of Lord Bew’s review and an announcement of extra funding for Scottish farmers

48/50 5 September 2019

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon cuts the hair of David Torrance MSP raising £1000 for the charity Maggie’s Centre in Kirkcaldy at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh

49/50 4 September 2019

Australia’s David Warner looks dejected after being dismissed by England’s Stuart Broad during day one of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford in Manchester

50/50 3 September 2019

Anti Brexit demonstrators attend a protest at Parliament Square. Lawmakers returned from their summer recess Tuesday for a pivotal day in British politics as they challenged Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s insistence that the UK leave the European Union on 31 October, even without a withdrawal agreement to cushion the economic blow
Ships out at sea before the sun rises off the coast of Whitley Bay, Northumberland

2/50 21 October 2019

Hundreds of students take part in the traditional Raisin Monday foam fight on St Salvator’s Lower College Lawn at the University of St Andrews in Fife. The messy display is the culmination of a weekend of festivities where first years say thank you to their more senior student “parents” for mentoring them

3/50 20 October 2019

Wales players celebrate after beating France in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final in Japan. Warren Gatland’s side had to battle after France’s fast start but capitalised on their rivals’ ill discipline to squeeze into the semi-finals, 20-19
People gather in London to join the Final Say march for a people’s vote

5/50 18 October 2019

Protesters on Whitehall in London during an Extinction Rebellion climate change protest

6/50 17 October 2019

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson shake hands during a news conference after agreeing on a Brexit deal, in Brussels
A man walks his dog through the fallen leaves in Clarkes Gardens, Allerton in Liverpool
Police officers carry away an activist as Extinction Rebellion protesters block a road with a caravan in central London

9/50 14 October 2019

Queen Elizabeth II sits with Prince Charles on the Sovereign’s throne ahead of delivering the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament

10/50 13 October 2019

Great Britain’s Joe Fraser competes on Parallel Bars during the World Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. He claimed GB’s second gold with his victory. The 20-year-old from Birmingham nailed his routine to score 15.0 then watched as a series of rivals failed to live up to his total

11/50 12 October 2019

St Helens players celebrate with the trophy after they won the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford in Manchester. They beat Salford Red Devils 23-6

12/50 11 October 2019

Richard Ratcliffe, husband of British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe jailed in Tehran since 2016, holds his daughter Gabriella during a news conference in London. Their five-year-old daughter has arrived back in Britain, after making the “bittersweet” decision to bring her home

13/50 10 October 2019

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Thornton Manor. Their meeting focused on further Brexit proposals

14/50 9 October 2019

Wales survived an almighty scare against Fiji to secure quarter-final spot at the rugby world cup. Warren Gatland’s side recovered from a 10-0 deficit thanks to a hat-trick from Josh Adams

15/50 8 October 2019

Protesters dubbed the Red Rebels at Millbank at the junction with Great College Street, during an Extinction Rebellion protest in Westminster

16/50 7 October 2019

Final preparations are made in front of a reproduction of Michelangelo’s ‘The Last Judgement’, ahead of the opening of for the ‘Michelangelo: A Different View’ exhibition at Hull Minister
A car drives through a flooded street in Whitley Bay in Northumberland
Thousands took to the streets of Edinburgh today to march in support of a second Scottish independence referendum

19/50 4 October 2019

A 12ft sculpture of a gorilla, entitled ‘Gorilla Apocalypse’, created by Luke Kite entirely from scrap car bumpers and panels discarded in the last decade is on display at the British Ironwork Centre in Oswestry, Shropshire
Police stands in front of the Treasury building during an Extinction Rebellion protest in London

21/50 2 October 2019

Ex-Thomas Cook employees demonstrate in London after delivering a petition calling for a full inquiry into Thomas Cook’s collapse and for the company’s directors to pay back their bonuses
A road in Alum Rock, Birmingham is flooded after persistent heavy rain
Two tourists pose for pictures in front of Union and EU flags outside the Houses of Parliament in London

24/50 29 September 2019

A sheep on London Bridge as Freemen of the City of London took up their historic entitlement to drive sheep over the bridge, which was once London’s only river crossing

25/50 28 September 2019

An Aldabra giant tortoise is fed watermelon as a treat at the Malvern Autumn Show, at the Three Counties Showground near Malvern in Worcestershire

26/50 27 September 2019

Gallery assistants pose with an artwork entitled ‘Devolved Parliament’ by British artist Banksy, during a press view in London ahead of Sotheby’s contemporary art sale, as part of the Frieze Art Fair

27/50 26 September 2019

England’s Jonathan Joseph is tackled by United State’s Marcel Brache during their group match at the Rugby World Cup in Japan. England scored seven tries on their way to winning 45-7

28/50 25 September 2019

Tributes for former Rangers player Fernando Ricksen at Ibrox Stadium. Today, the funeral procession will pass Ibrox Stadium before making the journey to Wellington Church

29/50 24 September 2019

A person dressed as a caricature of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a prison uniform stands outside the Supreme Court after it ruled that his decision to suspend Parliament was illegal

30/50 23 September 2019

Thomas Cook aircraft are parked up at Manchester Airport on the day they collapsed after rescue talks failed. A total of 22,000 jobs – including 9,000 in UK – are to be lost following administration. More than 150,000 British holidaymakers need to be brought home, with the government and CAA hiring dozens of charter planes to fly customers home free of charge

31/50 22 September 2019

Fire performer Penella Bee performs before people take part in the North East Skinny Dip at Druridge Bay in Nothumberland, an annual event that marks the Autumn Equinox and raises money for MIND – the Mental Health Charity

32/50 21 September 2019

Protesters gather for a march and rally organised by “The People’s Vote” in Brighton, to call for politicians to give the public a final say referendum on Brexit

33/50 20 September 2019

Protesters in London joined millions across world to demand urgent action to save planet in the largest environmental protest in history

34/50 19 September 2019

Rapper Dave poses with the Mercury Prize: Albums of the Year Award at Apollo
A surfer in action during sunrise at Tynemouth on the north east coast

36/50 17 September 2019

Protesters dressed as the Incredible Hulk and Robocop outside the Supreme Court in London where judges are due to consider legal challenges to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament. The Supreme Court will hear appeals over three days from two separate challenges to the prorogation of Parliament brought in England and Scotland

37/50 16 September 2019

Farmer Tom Hoggard harvests pumpkins at Howe Bridge Farm in Yorkshire, ahead of Halloween

38/50 15 September 2019

Team Europe celebrate winning the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in Auchterarder, Scotland. Europe won the last three singles matches to claim victory 14½-13½
Activists from PETA stage a demonstration outside a venue during London Fashion Week in London, Britain
Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne attempts to stop a boundary in the fifth Test

42/50 11 September 2019

Storm clouds gather over the pier just off the North East coast at South Shields
The peloton rides past the Angel of the North during stage four of the Tour of Britain from Gateshead to Kendal
A penny farthing cyclist rides past St. John’s, Smith Square, Westminster, London
Australia celebrate the wicket of England’s Craig Overton, which meant they won the fourth test and retained the Ashes

46/50 7 September 2019

Manchester City celebrate after Caroline Weir scored during their Women’s Super League match against Manchester United at Etihad Stadium. The WSL attendance record was smashed with 31,213 people watching the first Manchester derby of Women’s Super League era – nearly six times the previous WSL record

47/50 6 September 2019

A bull bumps into a plain clothes police officer (left) while being walked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his visit to Darnford Farm in Banchory near Aberdeen. It coincided with the publication of Lord Bew’s review and an announcement of extra funding for Scottish farmers

48/50 5 September 2019

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon cuts the hair of David Torrance MSP raising £1000 for the charity Maggie’s Centre in Kirkcaldy at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh

49/50 4 September 2019

Australia’s David Warner looks dejected after being dismissed by England’s Stuart Broad during day one of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford in Manchester

50/50 3 September 2019

Anti Brexit demonstrators attend a protest at Parliament Square. Lawmakers returned from their summer recess Tuesday for a pivotal day in British politics as they challenged Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s insistence that the UK leave the European Union on 31 October, even without a withdrawal agreement to cushion the economic blow

In a statement, Chief Superintendent Andrew Mariner said: “This is a tragic incident where a large number of people have lost their lives. Our enquiries are ongoing to establish what has happened.

“We are in the process of identifying the victims, however I anticipate that this could be a lengthy process.

“We believe the lorry is from Bulgaria and entered the country at Holyhead on Saturday 19 October and we are working closely with our partners to investigate.  

He added: “We have arrested the lorry driver in connection with the incident who remains in police custody as our enquiries continue.

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“I appreciate this cordon is going to disrupt the activity of local businesses in the area and we will work to ensure that disruption is kept as short as possible.

“We are working with Thurrock Council to mitigate against any impact our investigation scene will have locally.”

The Independent has contacted the Bulgarian embassy in London for comment.

Police were called at 1.40am on Wednesday by paramedics. The industrial estate is closed and a witness who drove past just after 4am said that “all you could see was blue flashing lights”.

She added: “I knew it was serious because of how many police cars and ambulances were there, but the police had parked their cars across the whole access of the road so you couldn’t see anything.”

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The articulated lorry, a red Scania model with a white trailer and numerous floodlights attached to the cab, could be seen surrounded by forensic tents and temporary fencing on Wednesday morning.

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A spokesman for the Road Haulage Association said: “This tragedy highlights the danger of migrant gangs people-smuggling on lorries.”

Boris Johnson tweeted: “I’m appalled by this tragic incident in Essex. I am receiving regular updates and the Home Office will work closely with Essex Police as we establish exactly what has happened. My thoughts are with all those who lost their lives & their loved ones.”

Priti Patel, the home secretary, said in a statement that she was “shocked and saddened” by the deaths. She added: “Essex Police has arrested an individual and we must give them the space to conduct their investigations. Home Office immigration officials will be working closely alongside them to establish how this horrific event came to happen.”

Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price said the discovery was “sickening”. “People trafficking is a vile and dangerous business,” she said.

Additional reporting by Press Association