A MAN has been arrested in Italy in an ongoing probe into 39 deaths inside a lorry.

The international arrest warrant was carried out in Italy following the discovery of the mass grave in Grays on October 23, 2019.

The discovery of the Vietnamese migrants sent shockwaves across Essex and the rest of the world, and prompted a huge police investigation.

A spokesman for Essex Police said: "An International Arrest warrant was executed in Italy on Thursday.

"A 27-year-old man was detained by Italian authorities and officers from the National Crime Agency just outside Milan.

"The arrest is in relation to our ongoing investigation into the deaths of 39 people who were discovered in a lorry trailer in Grays in October 2019.

"The Crown Prosecution Service sought approval of the warrant on behalf of Essex Police.

"Courts then granted the warrant, and Dragos Damian was able to be arrested.

"He has been charged with conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and encouraging or assisting the commission of an offence.

"We await details of a court appearance in Italy."

The migrants died "excruciatingly painful" deaths, having suffocated in the container en route from Belgium to Purfleet in October 2019.

Ronan Hughes, 41, and Gheorghe Nica, 43, played "leading roles" in the smuggling conspiracy and were jailed for 20 and 27 years respectively in January this year.

Also jailed were two lorry drivers, Eamonn Harrison, 24, who towed the trailer to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge before their journey to the UK, was sentenced to 18 years.

Maurice Robinson, 26, was given 13 years and four months, having collected the trailer and opened it in an industrial estate to find the migrants dead.

Det Chief Insp Daniel Stoten said he "barely saw home" during the first few months of the investigation, and that police work into the smuggling of people into the UK would remain ongoing despite the initial sentencing.

The CPS said it was the largest manslaughter case it had ever prosecuted.