Homeless men 'treated as slaves' by Travellers
Homeless men were beaten and exploited by a Traveller family who kept them captive, shaved their heads and forced them into work, a court has heard.
Prosecutors at Luton Crown Court told jurors on Wednesday that the Connors family kept dozens of victims in camps over 15 years after picking them up from soup kitchens and homeless centres.
The court heard how police raided the Green Acres caravan park near Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire on September 11 last year and discovered 13 male workers who were not part of the Connors family. Jurors were told that officers went to the site after one worker escaped and reported it to police.
The seven family members each deny charges of conspiring to hold a person in servitude and conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.
The accused are: James John Connors (Big Jim), 34; Johnny Connors, 28; Tommy Connors (Junior), 26; James (Jimmy) Connors, 24; Patrick Connors, 20; Josie Connors, 30; and Tommy Connors (Senior), 52.
Frances Oldham QC, prosecuting, said: ‘Typically recruitment would take place at centres for the homeless, soup kitchens or simply on the street.
‘Subsequently these individuals were held at a succession of travellers’ sites culminating in the Greenacres site and were forced to work for the Connors family without payment.’
She added: ‘We say that this is a situation where men were targeted because they were vulnerable and kept on sites under orders not to leave. Their heads were shaved.
‘They were paid little or nothing for their work. They were verbally abused and, on occasions, beaten.’
The court heard that one man was recruited in the mid-1990s and had received £80 in cash in the 15 years he had been working with the Connors family. Jurors were told hours of work were anything from 4am to 11pm six days a week.
The case continues.