herald

Thursday 16 August 2018

Raids reveal 100 'held as slaves' after arrests at Irish Travellers' site

MORE than 100 people could have been held prisoner by suspected slavery rings across Britain, police believe.

The victims have been homeless and vulnerable men being held against their will by a network of individuals who have links with extended Irish Traveller families, it was claimed.

Police believe individual Travellers are behind an organised crime operation to kidnap or recruit homeless Eastern European men in Britain over the past 20 years and force them into unpaid work, while holding them in squalid conditions on starvation rations.



PAVING

Following the discovery of 24 men at the Greenacres camp in Bedfordshire, it emerged that further police raids were carried out at four other Travellers' sites across Britain.

Three brothers and their brother-in-law were remanded in custody yesterday after appearing in court charged with enslaving four men found at a Travellers' site.

James (Jimmy) Connors (23), Tommy Connors (27) and Patrick Connors (19), appeared at Luton Magistrates' Court along with brother-in-law James (Big Jim) Connors (33).

The charges relate to four alleged victims who were removed from the Greenacres site after a raid on Sunday.

The court heard that James Connors (Big Jim) faces six charges of conspiracy in relation to three victims, all of which were allegedly committed between April last year and August this year.

The other three men each face four charges of conspiracy, two for each in relation to two victims, which are said to have happened between June last year and April this year.

The court heard that many of the alleged victims were required to undertake work such as ground work, block paving, resurfacing and retiling for little or no pay. They were taken abroad to work in countries including Finland and Sweden.

On days off, they were allegedly put to work on the Travellers' site where 'humiliating' cleaning tasks would include being made to wash toilets with their bare hands.



SWEATSHIRTS

District Judge Leigh Smith said none of the defendants would be granted bail and remanded them in custody to appear at Luton Crown Court on December 5.

Howls erupted from the wives of the four defendants, who were sitting in the public gallery, as the judge remanded the men in custody.

One cried out: "What am I going to do with my children?"

A heavily pregnant woman who was arrested alongside the men on Sunday morning was released on bail and will be questioned further after the birth of her child, police said.

The four men all wearing sweatshirts, spoke in court only to confirm their names, ages and addresses and to tell the court they understood the charges.

A police spokesman said nine people had left the medical centre and had "chosen not to support the police investigation".

aokeeffe@herald.ie

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