'Eight men kept as slaves' were found at travellers' site, a court heard
Eight men allegedly forced to work as slaves were found at a travellers' site in Leicestershire during a police raid, a court heard.
The discovery was made at a site in Enderby on Tuesday, during one of four raids carried out in the county, Derbyshire and Gloucestershire.
Four members of one family arrested during the raids appeared in court on Saturday accused of forcing vulnerable men to work as slaves in "appalling conditions" for the past 20 years.
The charge was brought under a section of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 which created the offence of holding another person in slavery or servitude or requiring them to perform forced or compulsory labour.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
Miles Connors (22) was arrested at the site in Enderby, his mother-in-law Breda Connors (46) and father-in-law William Connors (50) at Beggar's Roost caravan site, near Gloucester, and their son, John Connors (28), at a caravan site near Derby, where seven more alleged victims were found.
All four are all accused of conspiring together, and with others, to hold people in slavery or servitude between April 6 last year and March 23 this year.
They are alleged to have threatened and coerced down-and-outs and street drinkers into modern-day slavery.
Prosecutor Graham Dono told Cheltenham Magistrates' Court the victims of the alleged racket had been made to live in "virtually uninhabitable" caravans without any facilities while working long hours for no more than £20 a day – and in some cases without any payment at all.
They had been "kept in slavery and servitude" by violence, threats of violence, withholding of their National Insurance and other documents, debt bondage and being placed in isolated locations away from contact with other people, he alleged.
Debt bondage means a person's labour is demanded as a means of repayment for a loan.
Opposing bail for all four defendants, Mr Dono said: "This is a huge operation with many outstanding inquiries."
Mr Dono said the police investigation had been sparked by the death of Christopher Nicholls, whose decomposed body was found in March 2008 close to the Beggars Roost caravan site, in Staverton. He had disappeared in 2005.
Police mounted a covert operation in March last year and kept various sites under surveillance, he said.
Mr Dono said the alleged victims "were given minimal amounts of food, movements are restricted, mobile phones are not allowed and victims are kept in fear of reprisals if they attempt to leave".
Men would be forced to work for up to 14 hours a day and moved from location to location around the country, it is alleged.
It is claimed they were made to dig up driveways using only hand tools and then resurface them.
Mr Dono said: "Many of the victims are homeless alcoholics, the most vulnerable persons in society."
It is said police observed 22 alleged slaves at Beggar's Roost who were sent to work on driveways.
The prosecution alleges the caravans in which the alleged victims were kept had no running water, minimal heating, haphazard and dangerous cooking equipment and no proper washing facilities.
Those who had tried to leave sites had been tracked down and returned by members of the Connors family, it is alleged.
"These victims are extremely vulnerable and are now in a safe house," Mr Dono said. "We say some of them have been indoctrinated for as much as 20 years working in this way. They are people who are clearly fearful.
"Twenty victims have so far been recovered from the Connors family but inquiries are at an early stage and it is expected there will be more.
"Some of them have allegedly been exploited and beaten for years."
Miles Connors, of Mary Street, Bawling Backlands, Bradford, John Connors, of Beggars Roost Caravan Park, Bamfurlong Lane, Staverton, and Breda and William Connors, of The Willows, Bamfurlong Lane, Staverton, were all remanded into custody. They will appear at Gloucester Crown Court next month.