Jury out again in traveller family servitude trial


Click to follow
The Independent Online

A jury has retired for a fifth day of deliberations to consider verdicts in the trial of a traveller family accused of forcing destitute men into servitude.

Seven members of the Connors family deny they controlled, exploited, verbally abused and beat the men for financial gain at a caravan site near Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire.

During the trial, the jury at Luton Crown Court heard the complainants, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were forced to work on the Connors' block paving business.

They were allegedly given almost 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 door-to-door selling.

Many of them 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 told police he was warned he would be "murdered" if he tried to leave.

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", jurors heard.

The alleged crimes came to light last year after police raided the Greenacres caravan site on September 11.

The Connors are charged with offences related to servitude and forced labour under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.

These crimes were allegedly carried out first by Tommy Snr, 52, but gradually over the past 15 years also by his children Johnny, 28, James, 24, Josie, 31, Tommy Jnr, 27, and Patrick, 20, and son-in-law James John, 34.

Tommy Snr, James John and Patrick are also charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and James John, known as Big Jim, is also charged with battery.

This afternoon the jury was sent home for the weekend and will resume its deliberations at 10.30am on Monday.