Five members of Connors family guilty of forced labour
Five members of a family lived a life of luxury while forcing workers to labour for as little as £5 a day.
William Connors (52), wife Mary (48), their sons John (29) and James (20), and their son-in-law Miles Connors (24), were all convicted of conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour between April 2010 and March 2011.
A jury at Bristol Crown Court found the Connors – whose assets include plots of land at a travellers' site at Kirk Lane in Enderby – guilty following a three-month trial.
During the trial, the court heard the Connors would pick up the men – often homeless drifters or addicts – to work for them as labourers. The victims lived in squalid caravans on traveller sites as they moved around the country working on the Connors' paving and patio businesses.
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Some were ordered to perform humiliating tasks, such as emptying the buckets used as toilets.
They were controlled by discipline and violence.
Some of the men had worked for the family for nearly two decades. Many were beaten, punched and kicked by the Connors.
On one occasion, a worker had a hosepipe shoved down his throat, and the men were often made to strip for a "hosing down" with freezing water.
"It was a demonstration of control and dominance of one set, the family, over another," said prosecutor Christopher Quinlan QC.
The court heard the men were paid as little as £5 for a day's hard labour on jobs that would earn the family several thousand pounds.
They were given so little food they resorted to scavenging from dustbins for something to eat.
In contrast, the Connors lived luxurious lifestyles, including driving top of the range cars, owning caravan parks and property.
Mr Quinlan said during the trial: "The men were forced to work and exploited for financial gain and the defendants had a very cheap labour workforce."
The Connors made their money by travelling across the country offering block paving and Tarmacking services.
Also working on the family business was son-in-law Miles Connors, known as Miley, who is married to William and Mary's daughter, Bridget.
Police began investigating the Connors following the discovery of the body of worker Christopher Nicholls, 40.
He had been involved in a road accident in October 2004 outside one of the family's caravan parks, in Gloucestershire, and his decomposed body was discovered in a shed near the site in May 2008.
Then, in 2009, an unnamed worker contacted Gloucestershire Police to say William and Mary Connors had recruited him from the streets of Cheltenham. He told police he was rarely paid and received little food.
The Connors maintained the men were "free agents", and William and Mary suggested they acted as "good Samaritans".
The introduction of the Coroners and Justice Act in April 2010 created offences of conspiracy to hold another person in servitude and conspiracy to require a person to carry out forced or compulsory labour.
The Connors were placed under covert surveillance in August 2010 and police recorded evidence of the men being assaulted.
It came to an end when police raided sites in Enderby, Gloucestershire and Nottinghamshire in March 2011, rescuing 19 men.
As the guilty verdicts were read out yesterday, family members in the public gallery jumped to their feet and extra security guards had to physically remove them from the court.
As she was found guilty, Mary Connors wept and shouted: "Oh, Daddy, Daddy, why are you doing this to me? I've never done no wrong to anyone in my whole life."
Sentencing will be on Monday.