Anger as killer Morecambe Bay gangmaster is given his freedom

Morecambe Bay.
Morecambe Bay.
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The ruthless gangmaster who left 23 cocklepickers to die in rising perilous tides a decade ago has been released from his prison sentence and deported.

Lin Liang Ren was convicted of 21 counts of manslaughter in 2006 – two years after a group of Chinese workers cockling on Lancashire’s sea beds perished in a tragedy that shocked the world.

Lin Liang Ren

Lin Liang Ren

The Triad gangmaster, now 39, was jailed for 14 years at Preston Crown Court but was released in 2012 after serving around half over the deaths, which left at least 26 children bereaved.

Ren, a heavy gambler who had callously planned a night out in casinos in Blackpool and Southport while his exploited workers were out in the bay in freezing temperatures, was deported to China in September 2012 by the UK Border Agency.

Details have only just come to light and the Parole Board is remaining tight-lipped about his release.

Ren, his girlfriend Zhao Xiao Qing, now 31, and cousin Lin Mu Yong, now 41, formerly from Liverpool, were found guilty of helping people breach immigration law, and Ren and Qing were found guilty of three charges of perverting the course of justice.

The tenth anniversary of the disaster, on Wednesday February 5, taints Lancashire’s Chinese New Year celebrations with a sad irony.

2014, the Year of the Horse, is supposed to bring prosperity and wealth - the very things the victims were seeking when they were smuggled into Lancashire to work the dangerous sands of Morecambe Bay in the belief they would find a better life.

Instead, two women and 21 men drowned or succumbed to hypothermia after becoming trapped in rising waters as they cockled for Ren’s gain.

Today, members of the community voiced disappointment at Ren’s release.

Det Supt Mick Gradwell, the Lancashire police chief who led the investigation, said: “This is a man who showed absolutely no remorse throughout the investigation.

“He was only interested in protecting his own skin.”

David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, added: “My personal view is he should have served the full 14 years. Currently his time he served equates to around four months for each life lost. I have asked Parliamentary questions about what has happened to the people responsible, where they are now and if they are in custody in China.”

The complex international investigation took 18 months and led to the longest trial at Preston Crown Court, as well as fuelling changes in laws regarding workers in certain industries.

In a further blow to the surviving children and families of the tragic workers, 5,000 miles away in China’s Fujian province, the Evening Post has learnt a bid to compensate them for the deaths has failed.

London lawyer David Tang, who represented them, said: “I did not know about this man’s (Ren’s) release. However, a bid made to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme some years ago failed because the workers were not here legally.”

The Home Office refused to comment on individual cases but a spokesman said: “It is usual for a person to be released at the halfway point of their sentence and any time spent on remand to be taken off.”