Essex lorry deaths echo 2000 tragedy at Dover

The discovery of 39 bodies inside a lorry container in Essex echoes an incident in 2000 when the bodies of 58 Chinese illegal immigrants were found in Dover.

A major crackdown on stowaways was launched after the 58 bodies were found in a sealed, airless container at Dover port on June 18 2000. Two young men survived the ordeal.

Post-mortem examinations confirmed death was due to respiratory failure through asphyxiation.

Chinese immigrants deaths vigil
A remembrance vigil after the tragedy at Dover (Fiona Hanson/PA)

The Dutch driver of the lorry, Perry Wacker, was jailed for 14 years in April 2001 for the manslaughter of the immigrants, who had paid a criminal gang thousands to be smuggled into the UK.

Seven men were later jailed by a Dutch court for their role in the human-smuggling operation.

An inquest heard how the 58 immigrants banged frantically on the inside of the container as their air supply ran out.

Coroner’s officer Graham Perrin said a vent at the side of the refrigeration container had been closed before the lorry went on to a ferry at Zeebrugge, shutting off the air supply to the 56 young men and four young women.

He said the two survivors, who were found unconscious by customs officers, survived because more air became available inside the container with the death of each occupant.

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