Mo Robinson is the man from Northern Ireland who is being held on suspicion of murder after 39 people were found dead in the back of his truck. The dead bodies were found in the town of Grays, Essex, in England on the morning of October 23. Robinson, 25, was arrested shortly after the gruesome discovery was made. Robinson is from the town of Portadown in County Armagh.
There were no survivors inside the Scania-made truck. Images from the scene show that the truck had stickers across the windscreen reading, “The Ultimate Dream” and “Ireland.” Robinson is being held on suspicion of murder. The truck is registered in Bulgaria by a company owned by an Irish female citizen, according to RTE News in Ireland. The company is based in the Bulgarian city of Varna. The truck has not been in Bulgaria since 2017, however.
The case is eerily similar to the case of Perry Wacker, a Dutch truck driver who was convicted in April 2001 of manslaughter after 58 Chinese citizens were found dead in the back of his truck at the British port of Dover. Wacker was found to have closed the air vent used by the deceased people. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison for the crime.
Mills warned that investigators are in the early stages of a lengthy investigation and that the identification of the victims is a priority. Officials have not said where the victims are from. Phone numbers have been set up to help the families of the victims. The Casualty Bureau Numbers are 0800 056 0944 for callers living in the UK or 0207 158 0010 for callers dialing from outside the UK.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Temperatures Could Have Been as Low as -13 Fahrenheit Inside of the Trailer
The chief executive of the Road Haulage Association in the UK, Richard Burnett, told the Daily Mirror that from media pictures and video, he could ascertain that the truck was a refrigerated unit. Burnett said that would mean that the temperatures inside of the trailer could have been as low as -13 Fahrenheit.
Burnett is quoted by the Mirror as saying, “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. You can imagine if they’ve been in there for days then there will be feces, there will be urine.”
A man who has been described as a “close friend” of the Robinson’s, told the Daily Mirror that the suspect “is my friend, a good friend of mine… the man is 100 percent innocent.”
Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills of the Essex Police told the media on the morning of October 23 that the tragic discovery was made at around 1:40 a.m. The truck was discovered in an industrial estate in Grays. All 39 people, including one teenager, were pronounced dead at the scene.
Police in Essex have said that the truck did not travel through Ireland, as was initially reported. Authorities say the truck traveled from Zeebrugge in Belgium, embarking on the night of October 22 and landing in Purfleet, Essex, at around 12:30 a.m. on October 23.
2. Robinson Studied ‘Light Vehicle Maintenance & Repair’ in College
According to Robinson’s Facebook page, the suspect lived in Laurelvale, a community around five miles south of Portadown. On that page, Robinson refers to himself as a “lorry driver.” Robinson attended Southern Regional College – Portadown Campus where he studied light vehicle maintenance and repair.
Posts on Robinson’s Facebook page show that he is in a relationship. Other posts show that he has at least one other family member who is a truck driver. Robinson refers to his truck as both “The Polar Express” and “The Scandinavian Express” in various Facebook posts. A source told the Daily Mail that Robinson doesn’t own the truck.
Robinson’s girlfriend’s brother told Belfast Live in the wake of Robinson being named as a suspect that they “hadn’t heard from him” and that they “don’t know what is going on.”
Robinson’s Instagram page is littered with photos of various trucks and cars. In the bio for that page, Robinson writes, “Scania Vabis. Scandinavian Express.”
3. It’s Reported That it Was Mo Robinson Who Called Emergency Services
The deaths are being investigated by the National Crime Agency and the Essex Police. The BBC reports that the industrial estate where the truck was found is littered with multi-national companies. The closest house to the estate is at least half-a-mile away. The bodies of the deceased people have been moved to Tilbury Docks in Essex.
The Daily Telegraph reports that authorities believe it was Robinson who alerted emergency services.
A truck driver who works in the area, Tadas Cesnavicius, told the Daily Mail that he regularly sees many trucks in the area around the industrial estate. Cesnavicius said of the trucks, “Whether they have people inside who knows?”
4. The Route Taken by Robinson Would Have an Extra Day to the Travel Time
Speaking to Sky News, the Northern Ireland policy manager for the Freight Transport Association, Seamus Leheny, described the route taken by Robinson as “unorthodox.” Leheny speculated that due to increased security at the British port of Dover, Robinson may have thought it would be easier to get into the UK via Ireland.
Leheny said that route would have added an extra day to the journey. The Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said that investigations into the incident would take place in Ireland. At the time of writing, Bulgaria and United Kingdom are both members of the European Union and therefore Bulgarian citizens are allowed to live and work in the UK without pre-conditions. The UK is due to leave the European Union on October 31. On October 24, it was widely reported that all of the victims in the truck were Chinese nationals.
5. Far-Right Pundit Katie Hopkins Has Called the Deaths the ‘Result of Open Borders’
British Interior Minister Priti Patel said on Twitter in response to the horrific incident, “Shocked & saddened by this utterly tragic incident. Essex Police has arrested an individual and we must give them the space to conduct their investigations.” While British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “I’m appalled by this tragic incident in Essex. I am receiving regular updates and the Home Office will work closely with Essex Police as we establish exactly what has happened. My thoughts are with all those who lost their lives & their loved ones.”
Far-right British pundit Katie Hopkins called the deaths of 39 people the result of “open borders and refugees welcome.” Hopkins tweeted that the tragedy is the “end result of rescue boats” in the Mediterranean Sea.