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Last Updated: Friday, 13 February, 2004, 18:03 GMT
Fishing boss protests innocence
David Eden denies responsibility for the deaths
David Eden denies responsibility for the deaths
The director of a fishing firm who was arrested and later bailed after 19 Chinese cocklers drowned in Morecambe Bay has said he is not to blame.

David Eden, 33, said he had been made a scapegoat following the deaths, that he had not exploited the workers and said they were victims of racial abuse.

Mr Eden and his father, 60 and also called David, were held on suspicion of manslaughter but freed on bail.

Lancashire police described Mr Eden's comments as completely inappropriate.

Mr Eden's comments came after the chairman of the Commons home affairs committee called for tougher penalties for "gangmasters" who exploit migrant workers.

The Edens are among seven people who have been held and later bailed in connection with the deaths of the cockle pickers, who were among a group of more than 30 caught by rising tides last week.


Mr Eden, director of the Liverpool Bay Fishing Company, said he had done a deal to buy cockles for 15 a bag from a Chinese national - who he did not consider a gangmaster.

The Chinese workers were paid 10 for a bag of cockles, Mr Eden said.

The father of one said he then began to receive threats for dealing with the Chinese workers.

He claimed the cocklers themselves were subjected to attacks, which the police failed to stop.

Mr Eden said the cocklers had official permits and called for an investigation into how they had been issued.


A Lancashire Constabulary statement said: "Mr Eden and his father are currently on bail after being arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, and it is therefore completely inappropriate for him to be commenting on this enquiry or attempting to pre-empt the findings of this investigation."

It added that any allegations involving officers would be fully investigated by the force's professional standards department.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) later clarified that Sea Fisheries Committees (SFCs), which issue permits for cockling, were composed of appointees from Defra and local authorities.

Cockle beds must close, MP urges
12 Feb 04  |  Lancashire
Fishing pair 'deny manslaughter'
11 Feb 04  |  Lancashire
Cockling survivors relate tragedy
10 Feb 04  |  Asia-Pacific
South China's fortune seekers
09 Feb 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Deadly sands of Morecambe Bay
07 Feb 04  |  Lancashire
Rich pickings for big risks
06 Feb 04  |  England

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