Police find warehouse in Dover deaths case hunt

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The Independent Online

Detectives investigating the deaths of 58 Chinese illegal immigrants in the back of a sealed lorry in Dover have arrested seven men and found a warehouse allegedly used in the smuggling plot.

Detectives investigating the deaths of 58 Chinese illegal immigrants in the back of a sealed lorry in Dover have arrested seven men and found a warehouse allegedly used in the smuggling plot.

Authorities in the Netherlands described yesterday's development as a vital breakthrough that had helped them piece together how the traffic in human cargo was organised as well as identify the gang responsible.

All seven suspects will appear in court in the Netherlands on Friday charged with manslaughter and smuggling illegal immigrants. One of those held is a 24-year-old owner of a transport company linked to the rented harbourside warehouse in Rotterdam used to hide the migrants before the next stage of their journey to England.

The arrest of the men, all from the Rotterdam area, had taken place over six days. Matching traces of unspecified materials were found in the warehouse and the lorry that brought the 60 people to Dover, said the police. Further arrests are expected and one suspect was on the run last night. A 55-year-old man was earlier released after several days of questioning

The inquiry by Dutch and British officers has, it is believed, led to the uncovering of the involvement of both Chinese and Western organised crime groups in the smuggling plot. Chinese detectives from the Fujian province will be arriving to join the team later this week.

"We have made remarkable progress," said a spokesman for the Dutch police's Unit of Illegal Human Trafficking in Amsterdam. "The police have managed to get a pretty clear picture of the organisation and of the individuals that have been organising the transport as well as the manner in which the suspects may have been involved.

"In broad terms it appears that the organisation has rented a warehouse especially for the purpose of the smuggling operation and has a transport company registered in the name of a front man.

"After that an articulated truck and container have been purchased. It seems likely that the Chinese group has been brought to the Waalhaven Warehouse on Sunday 18 June and has been transferred into the truck. Then the truck was driven to Zeebrugge and shipped to Dover."

The bodies of the 54 men and four women were discovered by customs officers at the Kent port. Just two had managed to survive in the sealed container with the refrigeration turned off on one of the hottest days of the year. They described how the others had desperately hammered the sides of the lorry with their shoes as the air inside ran out.

Kent police say they are close to identifying most of the victims but the names will not be released until all 58 bodies have been identified and their families contacted.

The Dutch lorry driver Perry Wacker, 32, of Rotterdam, appeared before Folkestone Magistrates Court on 24 June, charged with the manslaughter of the 58 immigrants. He is also accused of illegally bringing two people into Britain and attempting to bring the other 58 through the port. He was remanded in custody until his next appearance at court on 30 June.

A Chinese chef, You Yi, 38, and a 29-year-old female interpreter, Ying Guoare, of South Woodford, Essex, have also been charged in connection with the smuggling plot, and remanded in custody.

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