Four guilty in slavery case
Four members of a Traveller family; Tommy Senior, James John, Patrick and Josie Connors, were today found guilty at Luton Crown Court of forcing destitute men into servitude.
The four were convicted of controlling, exploiting, verbally abusing and beating the men for financial gain at a caravan site near Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire.
During the trial, the jury at heard the complainants, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were forced to work in the Connors’ block paving business.
The 13-week trial heard the men were allegedly given next to no food, forced to wash in cold water and paid little or no money for working up to 19 hours a day, six days a week.
Living in caravans and sheds deemed unfit for human habitation, prosecutors said the men spent Sundays doing further work by way of door-to-door selling.
Some were alcoholics, drug addicts or had previously been in trouble with the law, and were picked up off the streets, at soup kitchens or in homeless centres.
One allegedly told police he had been warned he would be “murdered” if he ever tried to leave, the trial was told.
Another said that living at the caravan site was like being in a “concentration camp”.
Most of the workers sooner or later managed to escape but remained fearful of being “recaptured”, the jury heard.
The trial was previously told that one destitute man was plucked from the streets by the Connors family, forced to work as a “slave” and “mentally tortured”.
The man was living in a hotel early last year when he was stopped by two travellers outside a Greggs bakery in Wembley, north-west London and offered an £80-a-day job, he said.
He agreed as it sounded like “good money” but he was taken to a traveller site, coerced into performing hard labour and never paid a penny, he claimed.
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told police that Connors family members had snatched his benefit money from him and forced him to perform hard manual labour for up to 16 hours a day, unpaid.
“It was not an easy job and was making my back hurt every day,” he told officers in his police interview which was played to the court.
“I didn’t like it but they said I couldn’t leave and said if I tried to leave ... I would get murdered.”
He described being “kicked in the nuts” on one occasion and on another day being punched in the eye for not finding any work, forced into the boot of the family’s car and ordered to sing How Much Is That Doggie In The Window and Bob The Builder.
On a third occasion he was given a black eye for not cleaning the bathroom, he said.
“I was basically being mentally tortured,” he added.
Josie Connors (31) sobbed in the dock as other members of the family wept in the public gallery as the verdicts were read out.
Connors and her husband James John (34) were convicted of two counts of holding a person in servitude and two counts of requiring a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.
James John was also convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and cleared of additional counts of holding a person in servitude and requiring a person to perform forced labour. The jury failed to reach a verdict on a battery
Tommy Senior (52) faced 11 counts and was convicted of one servitude charge and one false labour charge, as well as one of ABH. The jury failed to reach verdicts in seven counts and cleared him of one charge of conspiracy to hold a person in servitude.
Patrick (20) was convicted of conspiring to hold a person in servitude, as well as false labour and ABH charges.
He was cleared of two other counts but the jury failed to reach a verdict on seven others.
A total of seven members of the family were on trial but the jury failed to reach verdicts on counts regarding Tommy Junior (27) Johnny (28) and James Connors (24) after deliberating for 38 hours and 48 minutes. It cleared them all
of several other counts.
Judge Michael Kay QC told the court he will sentence the four defendants tomorrow and a decision will be made about the charges where no verdict was reached.