The man responsible for the cocklers being out on the sands that night was Lin Liang Ren.
Liang Ren had transported them from the pigsty-like accommodation provided for them at 55 Priory Road in Liverpool and at 3 Rydal Road in Morecambe’s West End.
He held them in fear for their own lives and for those of their families back in China.
Up to 30 cocklers were living in accommodation which was only designed to take between six and eight people.
Twenty-nine-year-old Lin Liang Ren was in the UK under the guise of being a student.
However, his true business was as a gangmaster making money from procuring illegal immigrants to go cockling.
Lin Liang Ren, who only the previous night had put £600 of cockling profits down on the table in just one game of blackjack at a Liverpool casino, had brought his countrymen and women to this wild, unfamiliar place in unsafe vehicles which he then tried to use to drive then out on to the sands.
Grossly negligent, he had no plan to get them off the sands when things went wrong and had not told them what to do if they got into trouble. His only order was to blame someone other than him if they were caught by the authorities.
Beneath him in the hierarchy were Lin Li Shui and Tian Long, who took his instructions and passed them on to the cocklers. Some could swim, others couldn’t. Many had never seen the sea before arriving in England.
A van full of 30 Chinese cocklers hadn’t even made it to Morecambe as it had broken down on the journey from Liverpool. At Red Bank, Lin Liang Ren attempted to drive his black Nissan pick-up on to the sands with cocklers aboard. It got stuck and Lin Liang Ren attempted to rescue it as he ordered his workers to walk the two miles or so out into the howling wind to find his ‘gold’ in the cockle beds. The cocklers would have received a paltry £5 per bag and Lin Liang Ren would have taken £10 of the £15 paid by David Eden and his son David – known as Tony – who ran the Liverpool Bay Fishing Company Limited (LBFC). Most of the cockles were being sold to the Spanish where cockle stocks had been decimated by disease. Known to the police as ‘The Hidden Community’ because there were no official records of them, The Chinese were the Edens’ sole suppliers of cockles. The Edens’ official turnover had risen from around £800,000 to £1.2million during the cockling gold rush.
Death threats had been made against the Edens for working with the Chinese but they ignored the threats and continued the relationship.
Lin Liang Ren used his henchman Tian Long – whose face was scarred with wounds like those of a boxer – as his ‘heavy’.
The Edens had arranged for two articulated lorries to go to the beach at Red Bank to pick up one load of cockles at around 7pm and one on the morning of February 6. As Lin Liang Ren gave out the orders, many of the Chinese cocklers reluctantly made their way into the bay, thankfully some left the sands early due to the cold.
Back on shore, Lin Liang Ren told the survivors that they had to say two of the drowned cocklershad been in charge.
Lin Liang Ren fled the scene and was later found walking along the A6. When questioned by police he gave a false name and denied being involved. After a lengthy police investigation Lin Liang Ren was finally found guilty of 21 counts of manslaughter.
Zhao Xiao Quin, his girlfriends, and Lin Mu Yong, his cousin, were found guilty of facilitation. The Edens were found not guilty of breaching immigration law by employing illegal immigrants.