Maurice Robinson, 25, of Craigavon, was arrested after the bodies were discovered Wednesday in Grays. He was also charged with conspiracy to traffic people.
He was the first of those arrested to be charged in what is seen as one of the U.K.'s biggest cases of people smuggling. He has a court date Monday.
FILE – In this Oct. 23, 2019, file photo, police forensic officers attend the scene after a truck was found to contain a large number of dead bodies in Thurrock, South England. The discovery in England of the bodies of 39 people believed to be from China lays bare some crucial but sometimes overlooked facts about China’s development as a rising global power that has elevated hundreds of millions of its citizens to the middle classes. (UK Pool via AP, File)
Four others have been arrested in the case.
U.K. police are struggling to identify the victims, who are believed to have come from Asia.
The Vietnamese Embassy in London has set up a hotline for families to call about missing family members.
Very few documents were found with the bodies, Essex Police Detective Chief Inspector Martin Pasmore said.
He said officers were trying to identify the bodies through fingerprints, DNA, dental records and distinguishing features such as tattoos or scars.
Police found 500 items in the trailer, including clothing, bags and mobile phones.
Father Anthony Dang Huu Nam, a Catholic priest in the remote town of Yen Thanh in northern-central Vietnam’s Nghe An province, told Reuters he believed most of the dead were Vietnamese.
Families fear the victims may include Nguyen Dinh Luong, 20, seen in an ID photo, left, and taking a selfie. (The Associated Press)
“The whole district is covered in sorrow,” Nam said, as prayers for the dead rang out over loudspeakers throughout the misty, rain-soaked town on Saturday. “This is a catastrophe for our community.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.