Jail for family who forced homeless drifters and addicts to work for pittance

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Five members of the same traveller family who lived a luxurious lifestyle at the expense of vulnerable men forced to work for a pittance were all jailed yesterday.

William Connors, 52, was jailed for six and a half years and his wife Mary, 48, received a sentence of two years and three months.

The couple’s son, John, 29, was jailed for four years. Their other son James, 20, was sentenced to three years in a young offender institution.

Son-in-law Miles Connors, 24, known as Miley, of Mary Street, Bradford, received a three-year prison sentence.

They were all convicted last week at Bristol Crown Court of conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour between April 2010 and March 2011 following a three-month trial.

The Connors enjoyed top-of-the-range cars and expensive holidays and, to live the high life, the family picked up men – often homeless drifters or addicts – to work for them as labourers.

The victims lived in squalid caravans on traveller sites as they moved around the country working in the Connors’ paving and patio businesses.

Some were also ordered to perform humiliating tasks, such as emptying the buckets used as toilets by their bosses.

Their work was monotonous, arduous and unrelenting, and they were controlled by discipline and violence.

Some of the men – called “dossers” by the Connors – had worked for the family for nearly two decades.

Many were beaten, hit with broom handles, belts, a rake and shovel, and punched and kicked by the Connors.

The men were paid as little as £5 for a day’s hard labour on jobs which would earn the family several thousands pounds.

They were given so little food that they resorted to scavenging from rubbish bins at supermarkets.

Police began investigating the Connors following the discovery of the body of worker Christopher Nicholls, 40, in 2008.

The Connors were placed under covert surveillance in August 2010 and police recorded evidence of the men being assaulted.

The Connors maintained the men were “free agents” able to come and go as they please and William and Mary suggested they acted as “good Samaritans” by providing them with food, work and accommodation.