A 38-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman from Northern England have been arrested on conspiracy to traffic people and manslaughter, Essex Police have said.
It’s understood the duo arrested are Joanna Maher and her husband Thomas, who yesterday publicly spoke to the MailOnline about how they previously owned the cab unit.
Last night said the couple said they had sold the cab – which was registered in the Black Sea port of Varna in 2018 – a year ago.
Ms Maher said: “It’s the cab – my name was down as owning it. We did own it but sold it 13 months ago.”
She added it was sold to a company in County Monaghan, close to where lorry driver Mo Robinson lived.
The 25-year-old Northern Irish man was detained in custody on suspicion of murder on Wednesday after being arrested by the Scania lorry in Grays, Essex.
- Live coverage of the story as it unfolds can be found here.
Mr Maher said what had happened was “disgusting” in an interview with Mail Online yesterday.
“I went to the British police as we were the registered owners in Bulgaria,” he said.
“I phoned them myself. They were happy we had come forward. They are well aware of who they are dealing with.
“It’s not nice to be associated with this. We’re shocked.”
This afternoon a spokesperson for Essex Police said: “We have carried out warrants in Cheshire as part of the investigation into 39 bodies being discovered in a lorry trailer in Grays.
“As a result, a 38-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman from Warrington have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic people and on suspicion of 39 counts of manslaughter.
“A 25-year-old man, the driver of the lorry, remains in custody on suspicion of murder. A warrant of further detention was granted yesterday, Thursday 24 October, by local magistrates.”
On Thursday evening the police began the movement of the victims from the Port of Tilbury to the mortuary at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford.
“This is all being done in close liaison with HM Coroner and we continue to work to ensure that the dignity of victims and respect for their loved ones are at the forefront of our investigation,” the spokesperson continued.
“The first post-mortem examinations will begin today, Friday 25 October.
“Formal identification will then follow the coronial process and will be a lengthy but crucial part of this investigation.
“As our investigations continue, the picture may change regarding identification, and we will continue to provide updates when appropriate under the direction of HM Coroner.”
The news of the arrest this afternoon follows reports the police are probing whether some of the lorry victims were trafficked to the UK to work in brothels or nail salons.
Sources have claimed the preying Snakehead gang may have been behind the victims’ treacherous final journey, where experts say they either suffocated or froze to death.
Now, police are reportedly probing whether some of the victims were being sent to work as prostitutes in the UK, along with slave labour jobs in nail salons, massage parlours and restaurants, reports the Mail.
The victims may have taken their treacherous 6,000 mile journey after forking out up to £30,000 to the Chinese Snakehead gang.
What has been established is that the container containing the 39 dead people arrived at Purfleet port, Essex, on the River Thames.
It had travelled from Zeebrugge in Belgium.
While security staff at the UK port have been warned away from speaking to the press – with their jobs at risk if they do so – two have spoken under the condition of anonymity.
The border force worker explained how refrigerated lorries are used to get around thermal imaging cameras designed to detect the warmth of bodies.
“Thermal imaging equipment doesn’t work on refrigerated containers. They are simply too cold, and you can’t pick up any heat that might be coming from somebody hidden inside,” they told The Mail Online.
“The smuggling gang must have known this, it just goes to show how clever they are. They are constantly looking for loopholes and sadly, it’s ended up with all these people losing their lives.”