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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 March, 2004, 06:47 GMT
Morecambe Bay victims identified
Chinese police visited the families of suspected victims
A team of Chinese police officers has helped to provisionally name 15 of the 20 Chinese cockle pickers killed at Morecambe Bay five weeks ago.

Lancashire police said their Chinese counterparts had collected vital information from the families of the suspected victims in China.

The UK officers were able to compare the results with their own inquiries.

Twenty migrant workers drowned on 5 February when they were caught in the dark on the mudflats by a rising tide.

Hopefully we will be able to identify all 20 of the victims
Det Ch Insp Steve Brunskill, Lancashire Police

Det Ch Insp Steve Brunskill, of Lancashire Police, said a further three victims had been potentially identified in the past couple of days, leaving only two more to name.

He said: "We still have some more 'missing from homes' to work through and that's what we will be doing over the next few days.

"Hopefully we will be able to identify all 20 of the victims."

He praised the "excellent work" of the Chinese officers, five of whom have travelled to the UK, in finding the relatives of the victims in China's Fujian province.

DNA samples

"Working together we have been able to visit 15 families and have established visual identities by showing them photographs," he said.

"But there is still work to be done and we have to compare DNA samples from relatives before we can satisfy the coroner that formal identification has taken place."

The Chinese team filled in personal details on an Interpol disaster victim identification form.

This was then compared to the results of post mortem examinations carried out in the UK.

It is pleasing to know that we are now so close to knowing the identities of the people who died so tragically
Dr Xuo Zhijin, Ministry of Public Security

Dr Xuo Zhijin, of the Ministry of Public Security in China, said once all the bodies had been identified they would be flown home to China for burial.

"Our country and the people have paid a lot of attention to this tragedy because so many people lost their lives," he said.

He stressed the progress so far had been the result of international co-operation by the Chinese and UK authorities through the Interpol system.

"The work has been difficult but it is pleasing to know that we are now so close to knowing the identities of the people who died so tragically," he said.

Dr Xuo was accompanied to Lancashire by fellow Chinese officers Feng Zie, Man Niu, Li Chunsheng and Chen Yikum.

The BBC's Richard Bilton
"The investigation will carry on, here and in China, for many months"

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