A MURDER probe has been launched after 39 dead bodies were discovered inside a lorry container in the early hours of this morning.

Emergency services were called shortly before 1.40am following the grim discovery inside at Waterglade Industrial Park, Eastern Avenue, Grays.

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Cordon - police have been at the scene since the early hours of the morning

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Aerial - forensics officers have been working at the scene

Some 39 people were pronounced dead at the scene. It is understood 38 are adults while was aged in their teens.

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

FIRST PICTURE OF MAN ARRESTED AFTER 39 BODIES DISCOVERED IN LORRY CONTAINER

He is still being quizzed by police.

The lorry, which is from Bulgaria, was initially thought to have entered the UK at Holyhead, in north Wales, on Saturday, having travelled from Dublin port.

But police have now confirmed the lorry travelled from Zeebrugge to Purfleet, where it docked at about 12.30am this morning. 

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Disruption - police say they are working hard to minimise disruption in the industrial estate

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.

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Scene - the lorry is believed to be from Bulgaria

"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.

"We have arrested the lorry driver in connection with the incident who remains in police custody as our enquiries continue."

Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills said: "At this stage we have not identified where the victims are from or their identities, and we anticipate that this could be a lengthy process.

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Serious - police officers made the grim discovery in the early hours of this morning

"I would like to thank the local community and in particular those who have been directly affected by the police cordon at the industrial site.

"This is an absolute tragedy and very sad day for Essex Police and the local community. We will continue to work alongside many other partner agencies to find out what led to these deaths.

"I would like to appeal for anyone who has any information to contact my officers at the Major Investigation Team on 101 or visit our website.

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Location - the lorry is believed to have entered the UK through Holyhead, having travelled from Dublin Port

"We will update all of our channels as we are able to, but please appreciate we are in the early stages of what is likely to be a lengthy investigation.”

A spokesman for the Essex & Herts Air Ambulance said: "[We were] tasked to assist EEAST to a multi-patient incident in the Thurrock area.

"Our priority was to work with partner emergency services to assess patients and provide any care needs that were identified."

Witness Paige Wade was driving past the industrial park at 4.15am on the way home from work.

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Discussions - police are expected to be at the scene for a number of days

She said: "I had just finished work while driving up Motherwell Way and all you could see was blue flashing lights, as I was driving past there was police tape to cordon off the start of Eastern Avenue.

"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.

"There's always lorries around there as they park up there for the night, I couldn't say whether I did or didn't see the actual lorry in question."

Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, said: "This tragedy highlights the danger of migrant gangs people-smuggling on lorries.

"It's highly unlikely that if this vehicle has come from Europe that it's been physically checked.

"Because of the migrant issue at Dover and Calais, you've got far more checks."

Mr Burnett said the container appeared to be a refrigerated unit, where temperatures can be as low as -25C, and described conditions for anyone inside as "absolutely horrendous".

It is not known whether any refrigeration system which may be installed in the lorry was switched on.

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Investigations - police could be on the scene for some days