TWO men have appeared in court charged in connection with the Morecambe Bay cockling tragedy.

David Anthony Eden, 61, of Thingwall Road, Irby, Wirral, and his son, also David Anthony Eden, 33, of Woodchurch Road, Prenton, Wirral, appeared at Lancaster Magistrates' Court..

They are charged with conspiracy to commit facilitation - that is,, with assisting an immigrant between August 1, 2003, and February 5, 2004.

The pair were granted unconditional bail to appear before Preston Crown Court on August 3 for a preliminary hearing.

Five people have now been charged in connection with events that led to the deaths of 21 Chinese cockle pickers off Hest Bank on February 5.

Detectives believe two more people drowned but their bodies have never been recovered.

Lin Laing Ren, 27, of Lemon Street, Liverpool, is charged with 21 counts of manslaughter, charges of conspiracy to commit facilitation and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Zhao Qing Xiao, also known as Eva, 19, also of Lemon Street, is charged with conspiracy to commit facilitation and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Lin Mu Yong, 29, of Jason Street, Liverpool, is charged with conspiracy to commit facilitation. Lin Laing Ren and Lin Mu Yong are remanded in custody and Zhao Qing Xiao is on police bail.

A total of 21 Chinese people were confirmed drowned after being caught by the tide as they gathered shellfish - another two are missing and presumed dead.

The horror unfolded on Thursday, February 5, after the doomed group went more than two and a half miles out from the shore to pick cockles between two deep channels in Morecambe Bay.

As the channels filled, they were cut off by the rising tides.

A frantic rescue mission involving two RAF helicopters and numerous lifeboats were launched when the alarm was raised.

None of the dead had any safety gear and some had stripped naked as they tried to swim to safety. The tragedy in Morecambe Bay drew the attention of the world to the scandal of exploited Chinese labour - some making as little as £10 a day.

Gangs can charge Chinese peasants up to £18,000 to be smuggled across Western Europe.

They allow the people to borrow the cash at extortionate rates of interest.

Lancashire police launched a massive investigation following the disaster in February. It involved officers flying to China to carry out their inquiries, and return visits by their counterparts in China.