Detective in Essex Lorry Killers probe reveals he retired after 'biggest investigation in force's history'

A POLICE officer who investigated the deaths of 39 migrants in a container has revealed he retired after the shocking probe.

Detective Chief Inspector Daniel Stoten said the homicide case left him in a "real dark place", describing it as the "largest investigation in our force's history".

The 39 Vietnamese migrants died in the refrigerated lorry on the journey from Belgium to Purfleet in Essex in October 2019.

An inquiry into their deaths began after lorry driver Maurice Robinson opened his sealed container at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays to find the migrants dead.

The discovery led cops to uncover a people-smuggling ring with four men were later jailed for manslaughter.

Det Ch Insp Stoten, from Essex Police, told a BBC documentary about the case: "I've been a police officer for over 30 years. I have led a number of large murder investigations. Nothing touched this.

"Thirty-nine people had died… and their justice [was] in my hands.

"I sat there and thought 'wow, am I good enough for this?'."

Robinson, Eamonn Harrison, Ronan Hughes and Gheorghe Nica were all jailed for manslaughter in January, receiving jail sentences of up to 27 years.

Reflecting on the case, Det Ch Insp Stoten, added: "This has been such a journey, physically and emotionally.

"I had some periods of time when I felt myself in a real dark place. I took the decision this would be my last homicide investigation."

Maurice Robinson from Craigavon in Northern Ireland, found the bodies of the 39 migrants after he picked up the trailer they were in at Purfleet.

Robinson was tasked with collecting the trailer on October 23rd 2019 and was shown by Nica where to take it in Orsett the night before.

In the 23 minutes before he called 999, he exchanged a series of calls with Hughes and Nica, who in turn alerted other members of the team, including those waiting in Orsett.

When Robinson spoke to Nica, he allegedly told him: “I have a problem here – dead bodies in the trailer.”

When he finally rang 999, Robinson claimed he had found the bodies after he heard “a noise in the back”, even though the evidence suggested they had been dead for hours.

He admitted manslaughter, being part of the people-smuggling gang and acquiring criminal property.

Hunting the Essex Lorry Killers airs at 9pm on Wednesday on BBC Two.

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