Established British cocklers who worked the sands of Morecambe Bay resented Chinese workers encroaching on their patch and resorted to acts of violence and intimidation to move them off the beaches, a court heard.

Chris Mossman who led a team of 15 men fishing for cockles in the Bay prior to the tragedy in which 21 Chinese cocklers lost their lives, said there was trouble on the sands from the day the Chinese arrived.

Initially, he said, there were two or three Chinese on the beaches trying to get buyers for cockles and when the workers arrived they came in a team of about 15.

He told a jury at Preston Crown Court there was a bit of fighting at the beginning but on another occasion there was an incident when it was thought guns and machetes were involved.

Prior to the tragedy, the number of Chinese cocklers in the Hest Bank area grew from 15 to "more than 20" and Mr Mossman told the court there were two or three people with the Chinese group not out on the sands. He said one appeared to be a minder' and one of the others, who he subsequently identified as being Lin Liang Ren, of whom he said: "It looked to me like he was the gangmaster of the Chinese pickers on Hest Bank. He was the one organising every time."

Mr Mossman said there was a lot of resentment because a lot of people were making a lot of money out of the Chinese as well as taking people's livelihoods.

"Each time Chinese people turned up the English gangmasters would not turn up because they were frightened of the (other) English people beating them up."

Like many other British cocklers, Mr Mossman had stopped cockling the day before the tragedy because the tides would not be in daylight for another four to five days.

Earlier, Mr Mossman told the court how he had an arrangement with David Eden Snr, one of the accused, whereby he (Mr Mossman) would do the beach work and Eden Snr would sell the cockles and the profits would be split, at a time when the Chinese were looking for work.

"David Eden asked me did I want to take the Chinese on because they were always pestering him to work for him," said Mr Mossman.

"I didn't want anything to do with them. As soon as I thought he was taking the Chinese people on I started selling to someone else."

Lin Liang Ren, 29, from Liverpool, denies 21 counts of manslaughter. He also denies perverting the course of justice and facilitation. His 20-year-old girlfriend at the time Zhao Xiao Qing denies perverting the course of justice and facilitation. Ren's cousin Lin Mu Yong, 31, also from Liverpool, denies facilitation.

Father and son David Eden, 61, and David Eden, 33, both from Merseyside, the owners of Liverpool Bay Fishing company, also deny a charge of facilitation.