Police Raid Caravan Site In Slavery Investigation

15 September 2014, 13:01 | Updated: 15 September 2014, 13:05

Police raided a travellers' site after receiving allegations that modern day slaves were held captive and made to work for little or no money.

It is the second time the Greenacres Travellers site near Leighton Buzzard, Beds has been raided in three years.

In an operation launched yesterday/Sunday, Bedfordshire police, along with the National Crime Agency, carried out an early morning and  "freed" eight men.

Around 65 officers supported by the dog section, helicopter and firearms support units executed the search warrant at dawn on two plots at the site.

Four residents of the plots, two men and two women were arrested under the Coroners & Justice Act 2009 and are currently being held at police stations across Bedfordshire.

Eight suspected victims - seven men aged between 20 and 46, and a 17 year old boy - were found at the plots.

The police say that while some of the victims decided not to engage with the police, those that did were taken to an undisclosed reception centre where they received medical, health, psychological and social welfare care.

Central Bedfordshire Council is co-ordinating their social and medical needs, while police liaison officers will keep in close touch with them to obtain their evidential accounts.

Chief Inspector Tania Coulson of the Local Policing Team said: "The men we found at the plot were in a poor state of physical health and the conditions they were living in were cramped and filthy. We believe that some of the victims had been living and working there in a state of virtual slavery, some for just a few day/weeks and others for many years.

"The offences being investigated are extremely serious. We understand that some people may have information about what has been happening, but have been too scared to come forward and report it. People who do want to talk to us about this matter should contact us on 101, or Crimestoppers, which is both anonymous and independent from the police. You do not have to give your name, but if you do we will keep it secret."

There were two further arrests on the morning with one man being arrested for Obstructing a Police Officer while another was arrested for a Breach of the Peace.

During the operation Bedfordshire Police were assisted by officers from the NCA's UK Human Trafficking Centre as well as partners from Central Bedfordshire Council, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross.

In September 2011 they raided the same site to 13 'workers' being held against their will by Tommy Connors Snr. and other family members.

Connors, 53, was jailed for 8 years and his son Patrick Connors, 21, was jailed for 5 years  in May last year. Tommy's son-in-law James John Connors, 34,  his daugther Josie Connors, 31, were convicted in July 2012 two counts  of keeping people in servitude  and jailed for 11 years and four years respectively.

The latest raids are understood not to involve members of the Connors family.