Drowned cockle picker to be buried in China: British police

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A woman who drowned off the English coast in an accident believed to have killed 23 people will be buried at home in China, British police said on Wednesday.

An inquest ruled that a human skull found on a beach in July was that of 37-year-old Liu Qin Ying, who went missing in 2004 with 22 other Chinese workers who had been picking cockles in Morecambe Bay, northwest England.

The victims, all of whom were illegal immigrants, were caught in fast rising tides. Only 21 bodies were recovered after the disaster, including Liu's husband Xu Yu Hua.

"I am entirely satisfied it is the skull of Liu Qin Ying," said Simon Jones, the deputy coroner. Teeth from the skull were matched with a DNA sample obtained from Liu's parents.

At least 26 children lost parents in the tragedy. The couple left behind a son, Xu Bin, now aged 19.

The case will now be passed to British prosecutors who will decide whether to pursue further criminal charges against the gang leader who was jailed for 14 years for his role in the tragedy.

Lin Lian Ren was convicted of 21 counts of manslaughter in 2005 after a jury ruled he sent his employees out in dangerous conditions to collect cockles, which he sold to restaurants.

Just one of the cockle-pickers, Dong Xin Wu, remains unaccounted for. The bodies of the 21 victims who were found were returned to China in 2004.

Steve Brunskill, the detective superintendent who led the identification process, said: "The family of Liu Qin Ying were very grateful when we informed them of where we were up to with the possibility it was their relative.

"Now the identification is confirmed, my next step is to speak to the Crown Prosecution Service. As soon as they make their decision we can look at repatriation. The family have waited a long time."

© 2010 AFP

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