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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 September 2005, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
Revisting coast's treacherous sands
By Danny Savage
BBC News at Morecambe Bay

Jurors at Morecambe Bay
As the jurors headed out from shore at Hest bank along the Lancashire coast in their grey hovercraft they were told that they were at the point where the Chinese cockle pickers had left land on the night of 5 February last year.

The hovercraft first headed north into the bay across the vast expanse of sand to a point known locally as "Priest Skear".

Here they disembarked to walk on the sands and were shown where some of the bodies of the Chinese workers were recovered and the location of some of the cockle beds.

The tide was out for their first trip across the bay; the sea had retreated across the horizon exposing many square miles of flat, wet sand and the river channels which run through it.

The jury had already been told by the prosecution barrister, Tim Holroyde QC, that conditions today would be very different to those on the windy night that the Chinese workers drowned.

The jury of ten women and two men along with the judge Mr Justice Henriques and court officials then headed back to shore briefly before leaving on their second trip.

Quicksand

This time, the hovercraft headed directly out towards the sea. The tide was coming in and the purpose of this trip was to show the court just how the tide moves and how quickly the small channels fill with water.

The jurors stood on the side of the hovercraft to watch the changing conditions.

This is day three of the trial and the jury has already been told that Morecambe Bay can be a dangerous place to pick cockles.

It is home to fast running tides, moving channels and areas of quicksand and the tides do not run directly in and out like in other coastal areas.

Instead, they run through deep channels and can cut people off from the shore.

Police cordon

The cockles can only be picked when the tide is out and the sands are uncovered.

Cocklers aim to follow the tide out, which in Morecambe Bay can be a number of miles offshore, pick the cockles and return to dry land before the tide comes back in.

As the jurors' hovercraft sat about a mile offshore on the sands, the channels closer to the land filled up to illustrate the unique tides of this area.

The police cordon along the foreshore kept onlookers away from the court proceedings.

The five defendants in the trial did not take part in the visit. They all denied the charges facing them.






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