Travellers must pay £361,000 or get longer in jail

The raid in 2011
The raid in 2011

Three members of a notorious family of Irish travellers who kept vulnerable men as their slaves forcing them to work for no wages have been ordered to hand over hundreds of thousands of pounds.

If they don’t cough up within six months, the three – Patrick Connors 22, his sister Josie Connors, 33, and her husband James Connors will receive extended prison sentences.

In a hearing at Luton Crown Court last week, Judge Michael Kay made a confiscation order which means the three will have to pay up more than £361,000. The money represents the benefit they made from their crimes.

The three were all part of the family of Tommy Connors, known as Lyncham, who was jailed in 2013. He was convicted of keeping two vulnerable men captive and forcing them to work for no wages.

The 54-year-old-head of the family was said to have driven the workers that he recruited like ‘slaves’ and, in the process, made huge amounts of money.

At the end of a month-long trial, he was jailed for eight years and his son, Patrick Connors, was jailed for five years.

In 2012 James and his wife Josie Connors who was the daughter of Tommy Connors, were convicted of two counts each of keeping people in servitude at the Greenacres travellers site at Little Billington.

The husband received an 11 year jail sentence and his wife was sentenced to four years.

James Connors, known as “Big Jim” was also convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

On Wednesday, Judge Kay, who had presided over the trial, ordered that Patrick Connors must hand over £160,771 to the authorities within the next six months or he will receive a further prison sentence of 30 months.

James Connors was told he must come up with £191,242 or face an extra 30 months behind bars.

Josie Connors was told to hand over £9,099 within the next six months or face a further six month prison term.

During the trial at Luton Crown Court, the jury heard the family had targeted the men who were “homeless or addicted and isolated” and who could be exploited.

Men, often out of work and homeless, even alcoholics, would be recruited at soup kitchens and off the street with the promise of paid work, food and lodgings.

But once in the clutches of the Connors, they were threatened with violence and intimidation if they wanted to leave.

Many had managed to flee once they realised they had been duped by Connors, but a small number had been so degraded and manipulated by Tommy Connors they had not been able to summon the courage to take matters into their own hands and run away.

For Patrick Connors, keeping vulnerable workers and exploiting them had been a way of life he had been born into. He too had dished out assaults when he was in a bad mood or unhappy with workers.

During the trial the jury heard that after going off with the family, recruited workers were held in ‘Spartan’ conditions on the travellers site where married Tommy Connors and his sons and daughter lived with their families in luxury.

The workers were immediately put to work doing back breaking block paving work and laying tarmac and gravel, but weren’t paid and, with the constant threat of violence, not allowed to leave.

Their heads would be shaved and food often consisted of biscuits, pot noodles, cheese, soup, bacon, beans and eggs.

Workers were forced to live in a horsebox, others in shabby and cold caravans and sheds. The only washing facilities were a cold water tap in the yard and a toilet shared between them all.

They would be driven to a service station or leisure centre for a shower once a week.

In September 2011 Bedfordshire Police mounted a carefully co-ordinated raid on the Greenacres site to free 13 ‘workers’ being held against their will.

In the father’s luxury static home on the site, police found £16,000 in cash. Also found was evidence that he had £130,000 in bank deposits.