Two more people have been arrested in connection with the grim discovery of 39 dead Chinese nationals in a truck outside London earlier this week, and China is blaming the U.K. government for the tragedy.
As autopsies got underway, police in Essex confirmed Friday morning that they've arrested a man and a woman, both 38, in Warrington, in the northwest of England, on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic people and on suspicion of 39 counts of manslaughter.
Mo Robinson, the 25-year-old truck driver from Northern Ireland, who was arrested at the scene in the early hours of Wednesday morning, remains in custody after the police were granted additional detention Thursday evening.
While the police have yet to name those arrested, a TV station in Bulgaria has named Joanna Maher, from Warrington, as an owner of the Scania truck cab at the center of the investigation.
Maher and her husband, Thomas, who is reportedly a haulage boss, told reporters earlier this week that they had owned the cab but insisted they sold it over a year ago to a company in Northern Ireland, close to where Robinson lives.
The bodies of the 39 victims — 28 men and 11 women — are being transferred to the mortuary in Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, just outside London, where the arduous task of performing autopsies were to begin Friday.
The police are still trying to ascertain the exact route the container took prior to its arrival in Purfleet in the U.K. in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
New tracking data from the container has revealed that it visited three towns and cities in Belgium and France in the days before the victims were taken to Essex. One of those towns was Dunkirk, which is just 40 miles from the port of Calais where smugglers are known to prey on migrants seeking entry to the U.K.
“This is a shocking tragedy. We express our deep condolences to the families and friends of the victims,” the Chinese embassy in London said on Friday, adding that it expected the U.K. side would respect the dead and “conduct a comprehensive and thorough investigation.”
However, Chinese state media were less flattering toward U.K. officials, criticizing them for failing to prevent a repeat of the 2000 tragedy when 58 Chinese stowaways died in a truck traveling by ferry from Belgium to Britain.
In an editorial headlined “The U.K. must bear responsibility,” the state-run Global Times said: “Imagine what thorough measures European countries would take if dozens of Europeans died in the same way? Let me ask Britain and the European government why they failed to avoid a similar tragedy after the Dover tragedy? Did they take all the serious remedial action that they could have?”
Cover: Police escort the truck, that was found to contain a large number of dead bodies, as they move it from an industrial estate in Thurrock, south England, Wednesday Oct. 23, 2019. Police in southeastern England said that 39 people were found dead Wednesday inside a truck container believed to have come from Bulgaria. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)