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Slavery gang forced victim to dig his own grave

11 August 2017 National News


Members of a traveller family have been convicted of running a modern slavery ring, with one of their captives held in “truly shocking” conditions for decades.

The Rooney clan forced vulnerable people to work for little or no wages while they lived a life of luxury, which included holidays to Barbados and cosmetic surgery.

One of the victims, who worked for the family for 26 years, was ordered to dig his own grave and told “that’s where you’re going” if he did not sign a false work contract.

Image: Labourers were forced to live in shabby run-down caravans

Eleven gang members have been convicted of fraud and slavery charges and the full scale of their offending can only now be reported after a ruling at Nottingham Crown Court on Friday.

Operating from sites in Lincolnshire, they targeted victims who were homeless, had learning disabilities or complex drug and alcohol issues.

Eighteen victims, men aged 18 to 64, were freed following raids by Lincolnshire Police and the National Crime Agency in 2014.

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A caravan where men were forced to live by the Rooneys

Image: Eighteen men were forced to work at the sites or for the Rooneys’ businesses

The gang also targeted four elderly homeowners, getting them to sign over properties into their names and then selling three on for a profit, one for £250,000.

One of these victims ended up dying without his family knowing, and it was only when relatives contacted police that they discovered they had missed his funeral.

The gang would search for victims on the streets and in hostels and shelters, offering work for food and accommodation at sites in Drinsey Nook and Washingborough.

A caravan where men kept as slaves by the Rooneys were forced to live

Image: Many of the victims’ bank accounts were controlled by the family

The men were forced to work at the sites or for the Rooneys’ businesses, repairing properties and tarmacking drives.

But even though the offers of fair work for fair pay were quickly exposed as lies, they kept their victims “financially trapped” and under total control using false promises, drugs, alcohol and violence.

Labourers were forced to live in shabby run-down caravans or in stables next to kennels, with little or no access to heating, water or toilets.

Traveller Patrick Rooney's house

Image: In contrast, the Rooneys lived a life of luxury

Police said the victims were poorly fed – often being given the family’s leftovers – even though they worked for hours doing hard, manual tasks without safety equipment or the right clothing.

The gang controlled many of the victims’ bank accounts, with the money being used to pay for gym memberships, football schools and building materials.

A caravan where slaves were forced to live by the Rooneys

Image: The slaves had little or no access to heating, water or toilets.

The Rooneys also used “threats” and “violence”, including punishment beatings, and the victims were denied medical help.

The impact on the victims was severe, with many suffering mental and physical torment during their “gruelling and emotional” ordeal, according to police.

By contrast, members of the gang enjoyed luxurious holidays to Australia, Egypt and Mexico, high-performance BMWs, spa days and cosmetic surgery.

A caravan where slaves were forced to live by the Rooneys

Image: Police said many of the victims had now ‘got their lives back’

As part of their operation to smash the slavery ring, police recovered £100,000 worth of stolen goods, including four caravans, three jackhammers, 70 packs of bricks, a labrador and Lincoln’s cemetery gates.

It was a far cry from what Chief Superintendent Nikki Mayo, who led the investigation, described as the “suffering” inflicted on the men they employed, adding many of the victims had now “got their lives back”.

The 11 family members convicted were:

:: John Rooney, 31, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby, Lincolnshire – conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour, conspiracy to defraud, fraud by false representation and two counts of theft.

:: Patrick Rooney, 31, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby – conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour, fraud by abuse of position, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and two counts of theft.

:: Bridget Rooney, 55, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby – conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.

:: Martin Rooney, 35, of Sainfoin Farm, Gatemoor Lane, Beaconsfield – conspiracy to defraud, two counts of converting criminal property.

:: Martin Rooney, 57, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby – conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour and unlawful wounding.

:: Martin Rooney, 23, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby – conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

:: Patrick Rooney, 54, of Sainfoin Farm, Gatemoor Lane, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire – converting criminal property.

:: John Rooney, 53, of Chantry Croft, Pontefract, Yorkshire – two counts of conspiring to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.

:: Peter Doran, 36, of Washingborough Road, Lincoln – conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.

:: Gerard Rooney, 46, of Washingborough Road, Lincoln – conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.

:: Lawrence Rooney, 47, currently in prison – conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.


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