UK media reports say “Joanna Maher, 38, and her husband Thomas, also 38”, were arrested “on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic people and on suspicion of 39 counts of manslaughter”.
According to MailOnline, the couple”insisted they sold the lorry cab a year ago to a company in Ireland”.
“Police are also questioning Northern Irish lorry driver Maurice ‘Mo’ Robinson, 25, for the third day with a decision on whether to charge him with murder or release him expected this afternoon,” the report said.
A 25-year-old man, the driver of the lorry, remains in custody on suspicion of murder.
The MailOnline said: “The ‘metal coffin’ lorry container carrying Chinese migrants had previously criss-crossed the Channel via refugee hotspots in the week before it arrived in Britain with 39 frozen bodies inside.
“Their bodies were moved by private ambulance from Tilbury docks to Chelmsford mortuary for post-examinations that will run into next week.
“The 39 Chinese migrants who were found dead in the back of a lorry and could have been locked in the freezing trailer for days where they were frozen, or had died of suffocation, while being trapped.
“The deaths have caused fury in China, where President Xi-controlled media accusing Britain of shirking its responsibilities to the 39 dead, despite claims they were being smuggled illegally into the UK by Chinese traffickers known as snakeheads.”
Meanwhile, the Global Times carries a story headlined: “The UK must bear responsibility.
“Imagine what thorough measures European countries would take if dozens of Europeans died in the same way?”
The driver is said to have “fainted when he opened the door and saw their dead bodies on Wednesday and police have now been granted an extra 24 hours to question him”.
He was still being grilled by police today “on whether he knew the 31 men and eight women were in the back”, who were kept inside the container, “which had a stop-start timer, specifically designed to conserve energy”.
“Its instruction manual stated that this could go on and off at any time.”
Candle light vigils were held in London and Belfast on Thursday night.
“In London anti-racism campaigners lined the streets of Westminster with various signs and banners which welcomes migrants and refugees.
“The signs also had lines on them which read ‘blame austerity not migrants’ and many had lined candles across walls.
“Police are probing whether the immigrants were moved into the UK by a Northern Ireland-based people smuggling ring as three properties across the province were raided overnight, including Robinson’s own home.”
The stowaways “had travelled from China to the UK and slowly froze to death in ‘absolutely horrendous’ conditions after they tried to reach Britain on a cargo ferry from Zeebrugge in Belgium”.
Detectives want to know whether the victims “were being trafficked by criminal gangs operating in the UK who sell them as slaves to work in nail bars, brothels, massage parlours and restaurants”.
A former security guard told The Times that smuggling is so well organised that mini buses meet the migrants and take them away.
“The port comes alive at around 2am. I’ve seen groups of migrants walking out the front door of the port with carrier bags.
“When there’s a group of them a few security guards on minimum wage aren’t going to stop them. They are all ages, babes in arms and five-year-old girls,” he said.
“Minibuses wait there at night for them to arrive. Last summer during the heatwave I gave water bottles to two five-year-old girls as they looked desperate.
“The 61-year-old said he had been upset when he learnt about the 39 deaths, but said that he hadn’t been surprised by the tragedy.
“He said he previously found some Albanian passports. He notified police, but he claims they hadn’t been interested in them, so he threw them in the bin.
“He also claimed that British authorities ‘didn’t know’ what to do with those coming in illegally from other countries.”
One local resident said: “They are well known for having smuggled all sorts of things across the border for generations.”
It was also noted that “scanners used to detect stowaways in lorries but sources claim they don’t work as well on refrigerated units”.
“A refrigerated container was used to smuggle 39 Chinese nationals into the UK because it evaded detection by thermal imaging equipment.
“Security personnel at both ports are equipped with thermal cameras which are used to try and detect stowaways.”
One security official said: “Thermal imaging equipment doesn’t work on refrigerated containers. They are simply too cold, and you can’t pick up any heat that might be coming from somebody hidden inside.
“The smuggling gang must have known this, it just goes to show how clever they are. They are constantly looking for loopholes and sadly, it’s ended up with all these people losing their lives,” he added.
This story “has generated huge interest in China, with 250 million people reading about the news within the first hour of it being posted on Weibo, the country’s version of Twitter”.
“An editorial in the Global Times, a nationalist Government-controlled newspaper, said: “Britain and the EU must accept some responsibility for the 39 deaths.
“It is clear the relevant countries have not fulfilled their responsibility to protect these people.”
China’s ambassador to the UK, said that the embassy had read the reports of the deaths ‘with heavy hearts’.
But the embassy also suggested “nationality had not been confirmed, raising the possibility that Chinese officials might not be convinced that the dead are from their country”.