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Family ‘forced murder victim to work as slave’

A “vulnerable” man was kept as a slave and tortured for his benefit money before being killed and his headless body dumped in a lake, a court heard yesterday.

James Watt (27) of Chertsey Close, Luton, three other members of his family and two other women are accused of killing 26-year-old Michael Gilbert whose decapitated body was found in the Blue Lagoon in Arlesey, Bedfordshire, last May.

Prosecutor Stuart Trimmer QC told Luton Crown Court that Mr Gilbert was held captive at the Watt family home and all six people charged bore some responsibility for what happened.

“He was kept as a slave at the address of the Watt family. He was kept, amongst other things, to take his benefit money,” he said.

The court heard that Mr Gilbert first met James Watt at a children's home when they were 15 and later lived with his family at a series of different addresses in Luton.

The family, including James's brother, Robert (20), their father Antonio (60) and mother Jennifer Smith-Dennis (58), all treated him as a slave.

They were regularly joined by Nichola Roberts (21), the girlfriend of another brother, Richard, and James's girlfriend, Natasha Oldfield (29).

James Watt denies murder and perverting the course of justice. The jury heard he has already pleaded guilty to familial homicide.

His brother Robert denies charges of murder and familial homicide but pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice, the court heard.

Ms Roberts, Ms Oldfield, Antonio Watts and Ms Smith-Dennis all deny murder, familial homicide and perverting the course of justice.

The trial continues.

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