A MASS murder investigation has been launched after 39 bodies were discovered in a lorry container.

Emergency services rushed to the Waterglade Industrial Park, Eastern Avenue, Grays, at 1.40am yesterday morning.

A search of the lorry revealed 39 bodies, all of which were pronounced dead at the scene.

Early indications suggest 38 are adults and one is a teenager.

A 25-year-old-man named locally as Mo Robinson, a 25-year-old from Portadown, Northern Ireland has been arrested on suspicion of murder.

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

“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.”

It is claimed the lorry had a refrigerated unit and temperatures could have been as low as -25C and “absolutely horrendous”, according to Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association.

He said: “It’s going to be dark. If the fridge is running it’s going to be incredibly cold.

“The only place to go to the toilet is on board the back of the trailer.

“This tragedy highlights the danger of migrant gangs people-smuggling on lorries.”

Police confirmed tracking the route of the lorry “will be a key line of inquiry”

A spokesman for Essex Police said: “Originally, we reported that the lorry had travelled into the country through Holyhead on Saturday, October 19.

“After further enquiries, we now believe that the trailer travelled from Zeebrugge into Purfleet, and docked in the Thurrock area shortly after 12.30am yesterday morning.

“The tractor unit of the lorry is believed to have originated in Northern Ireland.

“We believe the lorry and trailer left the port shortly after 1.05am.”

Paramedics from the East of England Ambulance Service were first on the scene.

They then called police to the scene following the horrific discovery.

A spokesman for Essex Police added: “A cordon remains in place.

“We thank everyone in the area, especially residents and local businesses, for their patience and compassion throughout the day.

“This will be a lengthy and complex investigation and we continue to work with local partners and international authorities to gather vital intelligence and identify those who have sadly died.

“We urge anyone with information to contact our Major Investigation Team on 101 or visit our website.”

Among those supporting police is the National Crime Agency.

A spokesman said: “We are working with partners including Essex Police and Immigration Enforcement to provide specialist support to urgently identify and take action against any organised crime groups who might have played a role in causing these deaths.”

Paige Wade was driving past the industrial park at 4.15am.

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.

“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.”

Police have set up a casualty bureau for people to call if they are concerned about relatives following the incident.

The Casualty Bureau Numbers are 0800 056 0944 for callers living in the UK, or 0207 158 0010 for callers dialling from outside the UK. Anyone with information should call 101 or visit mipp.police.uk to help the major investigation team.