‘You’ll be murdered if you try to leave’
A man allegedly forced to work for a traveller family for no money was pushed in the boot of a car and made to sing “How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?” and “Bob the Builder” to the children of one of their families, a jury heard today.
The ‘vulnerable’ man –who cannot be named – was allegedly struck by one of the seven defendants, Big Jim Connors, and was told he was a “useless piece of s***”.
He described the six months he spent with the Connors family at the Green Acres site at Little Billington as being “like a slave” and said he was told he would be murdered if he tried to leave.
Luton Crown Court heard the man escaped on July 18 last year while out canvassing for the family’s block paving business by flagging down a passing police car.
He is alleged to have raised the alarm about conditions at the site and on September 11 last year the police found 13 workers housed in caravans, sheds and a horse box.
Today the jury were played a recorded interview with a man who said that in January or February last year he was on the street outside Greggs in Wembley in North London when he was approached by Josie Connors and her husband Jim.
He told the police they asked if he wanted work as a labourer for £80 a day. He said it sounded like good money and he agreed and went to live in a caravan at the Green Acres site in Little Billington with two other men – an older man and a black man. The man described Jim as being of big build with curly hair. “He was Irish. He always seemed moody – he was horrible. Even his face is horrible. He is always aggressive, always shouting.”
He said Josie had long blonde hair and would “try to make fools out of everyone.”
He said Jim called me his son and he was introduced to other members of the family as their “little cousin.” But he said: “They still treated my like a slave. I felt worse than a slave.”
He alleged that if he tried to escaped they would get the older man “to murder him”.
He said: “Jim and Josie look for beggars and make slaves out of them.”
The man, who was being helped to find a flat in Wembley by social services at the time he was recruited, said nobody would have known he was at the site.
When he arrived at the site, which he was told was in Luton, not Leighton Buzzard, he said he was put in a small caravan with an old man and a black man., who was to later walk out. He was told to wash outside using an outdoor tap. He described the Connors’ caravan next door as a “palace.”
He said he was given egg sandwiches to eat most days. Some days the workers got sausage and chips and some days had nothing. “It is horrible not eating,” he said.
Describing his work he said: “I was working from 6 o’clock in the morning to 10 o’clock at night. It was hard labour – mainly block paving using heavy tools. It made my back ache.
“After three or four weeks Jim kicked me in the nuts for standing around and doing nothing.” He said he had been given a black eye by Jim on two occasions. When they were out on jobs the man said customers would ask if Jim was the boss because he was the one who sat in a car doing nothing reading the paper. “We worked seven days a week. We would get no rest at all, “ he said.
Once the working on driveways were finished he said he was made to clean the site at night dressed only in T-shirt and shorts. On one occasion, the man who said he used to be a professional window cleaner, had been told to clean the Connors’ caravan window five or six times because he had not done it properly. “I had been mentally tortured and punished,” he said.
Another time he was put in the boot of the Connors’ car – it was about a month after he joined them. He said he had been out canvassing for work but was punched because he had failed to get any customers.
He said: “I had been out canvassing the whole day. I didn’t manage to get any customers. Jim pulled up in the car and said ‘What have you been doing? Why haven’t you got any customers? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?’
“Jim punched me as hard as he could in the eye. It left quite a big bruise – it lasted for about a week.
“Then he shoved me in the boot of his car. He said get in there. I went in head first. He quickly slams down the boot.
“Josie was saying I had got to sing How Much Is That Doggy In The Window? to her kid. I sang it and then she said I had got to sing Bob the Builder.”
For much more on this case make sure you pick up the April 24 issue of the Leighton Buzzard Observer.
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