Traveller family members convicted of slavery after keeping captives for years
Vulnerable people were forced to work for the Rooney clan.
Members of a traveller family have been convicted of running a modern slavery ring which kept one of its captives in “truly shocking” conditions for decades.
Vulnerable people were forced to work for the Rooney clan for little or no wages, while their pay-masters lived a life of lavish luxury.
The 11 gang-members, convicted of fraud and slavery charges, enjoyed holidays to Barbados and cosmetic surgery and even shelled out on a Manchester United soccer school, earned off the backs of their workers.
Operating from sites in Lincolnshire, they targeted victims who were homeless, had learning disabilities or complex drug and alcohol issues. The men, aged 18 to 63, were freed after raids by Lincolnshire Police and the National Crime Agency, carried out in 2014. One of the victims was found to have been working for the family for 26 years.
Some of the gang also targeted four elderly home-owners, getting them to sign over properties into their names and selling three on for profit – one for £250,000. One the householders ended up dying without his family knowing. It was only when contacted by police they discovered they had missed his funeral.
After four trials resulting in convictions, the full scale of the offending can now finally be revealed after a ruling at Nottingham Crown Court on Friday.
Judge Timothy Spencer QC said: “After careful consideration, I’m quite satisfied the public interest lies in these matters being reported.”
Members of the family would go looking for victims on the streets, hostels and shelters, offering work for food and accommodation. But at sites in Drinsey Nook and Washingborough, the offers of fair work for fair pay were exposed as lies.
However, it was through false promises, drugs, alcohol and violence, family members made sure they kept their victims “financially-trapped” and under total control.
Labourers were forced to live in shabby run-down caravans, or in stables next to kennels, with little or no access to basics such as heating, water and toilets. Some were forced to squat in woods behind their living areas, while electricity was “dangerously” tapped from a nearby pylon.
In all, 18 men were forced to work at the sites or for the Rooneys’ businesses, repairing properties and tarmacking drives. Most told how they were never given safety equipment or the right clothing.
Chief Superintendent Nikki Mayo, who led the investigation, described as the “suffering” inflicted on the men they employed.
She said: “The tragedy in this case is that the victims will never get those years of their lives back – we believe one man was held for 26 years. The severity and gravity of the charges speak for themselves.
“Modern slavery is a cruel and extremely demoralising crime and it’s important that people understand that it isn’t just forced labour like this – victims can be sexually exploited, or forced into committing crimes.”
She added many of the victims “have now got their lives back”.