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Traveller gang kept homeless man as 'slave' for more than 20-years

Traveller gang kept homeless man as 'slave' for more than 20-years

A father and two family members have been found guilty of forcing a homeless man to work for their family business.

Cardiff Crown Court heard that Scottish man Michael John Hughes went to south Wales seeking a better life - but ended up being treated like a "slave" and made to do back-breaking work for as little as £5 a day for more than 20 years.

Mr Hughes, 46, said he was beaten "all the time" if he did not do as he was told, and was also made to live in appalling conditions.

Jurors heard he was hunted down each time he tried to escape - including one occasion when he was bundled into the boot of a car in Aberdeen before being taken back to Wales.

On the third day of deliberations, Patrick Joseph Connors, 59, and son Patrick Dean Connors, 39, alongside nephew William Connors, 36, were convicted of requiring Mr Hughes to perform forced or compulsory labour between 2010 and 2013.

Head of the family Patrick Joseph Connors, of Rumney, was also found guilty of eight counts of causing actual bodily harm, four of kidnap and one of conspiracy to kidnap.

The court also heard that a second man - who cannot be named for legal reasons - had been frightened into submission for years and was kidnapped on at least four occasions after trying to escape.

A victim impact statement from "Mr K" described Connors senior as an animal, and years of malnutrition had seen him develop the brittle bone disease osteoporosis.

It read: "Mr K said he felt extremely paranoid and has been constantly looking over his shoulder out of fear at the prospect of repercussions or running into the Connors.

"He has subsequently been diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and has been prescribed anti-depressants."

Patrick Joseph Connors' son-in-law Lee Christopher Carbis, 34, of Trowbridge, was cleared of the compulsory labour charge against Mr Hughes but found guilty of kidnapping Mr K.

Not guilty verdicts were returned against Patrick Dean Connors on a charge of conspiracy to kidnap, and William Connors on a charge of assault.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it hoped the jury's verdicts would give the victims a sense of comfort after years of abuse.

Catrin Evans, head of the Crown Prosecution Service Cymru/Wales Complex Casework Unit, said: "Today's convictions are a direct result of the immense courage both victims have shown in coming forward to report what happened.

"The criminal justice system cannot undo what has happened to them, nor give them back the years they have lost, but we hope that these convictions will give them some measure of assistance as they continue to rebuild their lives."

Chief Superintendent Paul Griffiths of Gwent Police, who led the investigation, described the case as tragic.

He said: "These types of crimes have a lasting effect on the victims - it is not just the physical degradation, it's psychological too. It causes deep and long-lasting trauma.

"We will always ensure that anyone coming forward has access to the support services needed to help them rebuild their lives.

"In circumstances like this, victims live in fear of the people controlling them. This is why the help of the public is paramount. People in the heart of our local communities are often the ones who can spot the signs of exploitation and help those who are unable to help themselves."