London: Police have opened a homicide inquiry after workers at Tilbury Docks in Essex discovered 35 illegal immigrants "screaming and banging" inside a shipping container, one of whom died on the scene.
The stowaways, all described as being from the Indian sub-continent, were suffering from hypothermia and dehydration. The survivors, who included women and children, were rushed to hospital after workers heard their cries and broke into a container on a P&O freighter arriving from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge.
Organized crime suspected in ship stowaway death
One has died and two are in serious condition after stowaways were found in a shipping container at a British port.
Superintendent Trevor Roe of Essex Police described the group in the container as "victims of the crime of people trafficking", adding that an investigation would now establish their route to Britain and a "homicide inquiry" would probe how one of them had died.
"Somebody has died inside a container, potentially unnaturally," he said.
The stowaways were found shortly after the ship had completed an eight-hour passage across the North Sea. Staff at Tilbury "became aware of screaming and banging coming from a particular container," said Superintendent Roe.
When they broke open the container, they found 35 men, women and children, all of them in obvious distress and suffering from the effects of confinement. The workers immediately called emergency services.
One man was pronounced dead at the scene. All 34 survivors were taken to three different hospitals. They were suffering from "severe dehydration and hypothermia," said Assistant Chief Officer Daniel Gore, from the East of England Ambulance Service.
Police searched all 50 containers on the ship in case there were other stowaways. No other unauthorised passengers were on board.
Superintendent Roe stressed the survivors were not under arrest, but would be "subject to immigration detention" and transferred to centres managed by the UK Border Agency once they were out of hospital.
The survivors were understood to be recovering quickly and some were close to being discharged. They are expected to be questioned by police in connection with the homicide investigation.