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Chaos in court as Connors family convicted of forcing men to work for them

By The Citizen  |  Posted: December 15, 2012

  • GUILTY: William 'Billy' Connors. Below from left; wife Mary 'Breda' Connors; son James Connors; son John Connors; and son-in-law Miles Connors.

  • William and Breda Connors

  • Breda Connors

  • James Connors

  • John Connors

  • Miles Connors

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CHAOS broke out in court as five members of the Connors family were found guilty of forcing men to work for them.

The jury was unanimous in its decision to convict Staverton-based William, 51, and Mary, 48, their sons John, 29, and James, 20, and son-in-law Miles, 24, of Bradford, after a three-month trial.

The family broke down and wept in the dock, except for William, who stood stoney faced.

Mary, also known as Breda, screamed uncontrollably and frantically pulled her hair as the first verdict, against her husband was read out.

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"Oh daddy! Oh daddy!" she yelled. "Mind the children. Why are you doing this? I have never done anything to anyone in all my life."

Six security staff struggled to maintain order while the verdicts were read out. One security guard was injured as family members leapt to their feet and Gloucestershire Police officers in the front row helped eject family members from the public gallery.

Extra security guards rushed into court to physically remove relatives.

John Connors' wife was carried from the court after trying to climb out of the public gallery into the dock.

As she left, she wailed: "Please, please, I'm asking you no. Don't do this."

Miles Connors' wife was also carried screaming from the court.

The family tricked around 37 homeless men into living with them on the promise of work, money and accommodation. They then made them carry out hard labour for little or no pay.

The men, many of whom were alcoholics or had mental health issues, were housed in crammed, squalid caravans at the Beggars Roost traveller site at Staverton. During the trial, it emerged they were given little food and were subjected to brutal beatings.

Those who received money from the state had their benefits confiscated by the family, which took £96,601 over six years.

In contrast, the Connors enjoyed a life of luxury, living in top-of-the-range caravans, driving expensive cars, and enjoying cruises and holidays to Dubai and Mexico.

The wealthy family charged thousands of pounds for work laying patios and driveways around Gloucestershire.

Judge Michael Longman will sentence the family on Tuesday. They could face a maximum of 14 years in jail for the charge of conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.

He thanked the jury for their efforts.

"I thank you for your enormous persistence over the past three months," he said. "I know you have given the evidence your direct attention."

The Connors' assets will now be the subject of applications for confiscation under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2003.

The five family members were charged with conspiracy to hold a person in servitude but the judge ordered the jury to return not guilty verdicts on these charges.

Connors family timeline;

1993 – Alex Gourlay picked up from a hostel by Billy Connors and put to work.

2000 – David Kettle recruited for the Connors workforce by Johnny Connors

January 5, 2000 – Willowdene property, worth £150,000, transferred from Brenda Davis to Mary Gammell in exchange for Southbrook, valued at £125,000. No money exchanged hands.

June 1, 2001 – Beggars Roost registered by Billy Connors and Bridget Mary Gammell for £375,000.

June 14, 2002 – Wainbridge Farm at Redwick near Bristol sold by Mary Bridget Connors (Breda) for £355,000.

December 13, 2003 – Land next to Bridge Farm brought by Mary Gammon for £50,000.

June 10, 2004 – Ikiru in Tewkesbury Road, Uckington brought for £208,000 and registered to John Connors and Esther Gammell.

2005 – James Martin and Nigel Houghton picked up by John Connors.

2006 – Andrew Thomas picked up by Billy and Breda Connors.

July 31, 2007 – Hayden Laurels in Gloucester Road, Staverton brought for £390,000 and registered to worker Alex Gourlay and Barbara Robb, wife of John Connors.

2008 – Craig Sevier picked up by Billy Connors.

December 8, 2008 – Land next to Willowdene brought for £115,000 and registered to Margaret Connors at a Coney Hill address.

April 24, 2009 – Land next to Beggars Roost bought for £22,200 and registered to Margaret Connors.

March 2010 – David Gibbons picked up by Miles Connors

Summer 2010 – Daniel Pedge found at a night shelter in Oxford and offered work by Billy and James Connors.

August 31, 2010 – police surveillance of the family and the workers begins.

March 21, 2011 – surveillance operation comes to an end.

March 22, 2011 – police swoop to arrest Billy and Breda Connors at Beggars Roost, John Connors at Pleasley, Mansfield, and Miles Connors at Kirk Lane, Leicester.

September 14, 2011 – James Connors arrested after fleeing to Denmark.

September 18, 2012 – trial begins.

1. William (Billy) Connors, head of the family, 52. Lives at Beggars Roost caravan site.

Defended by Michael Borrelli, QC and carried an alias of Michael or John Kennedy.

2. Mary Connors (Breda), wife, 48. Lives at Beggars Roost caravan site.

Defended by Lewis Power, QC. Uses an alias of Mary Gammell, Margaret Doran, Bridget Mary Gammell and Mrs Burke.

3. John Connors, 29. Lives at Beggars Roost caravan site. The son of William and Breda. Defended by Phillip King, QC

4. James (Jimmy) Connors, 20, arrested in Denmark. Lives at The Willows caravan site. Defended by Nicholas Atkinson, QC. The son of William and Breda.

5. Miles Connors, 23, son-in-law of William and Breda. Lives in Bradford. Defended by Roger Smith QC.

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  • 2ladybugs  |  December 16 2012, 3:13PM

    Well I hope the 'b' useless justice system in this country dishes them out with the highest custodial sentence they are allowed and as somebody else has said here, make sure the cell and their stay is uncomfortable as possible. NO time off for good behaviour. I also hope the tax department adds a few more years onto the sentence along with them paying back anything that is owed. It says here they own top of the range caravans cars and so they must be worth a few bob. I only hope that this Judge isn't a namby pamby type who lets them get away with this with a slapped wrist.

    Rate   11
  • Douglasknows  |  December 16 2012, 10:46AM

    His permed hairstyle must have made him a hit the the ladies!

    Rate   9
  • TheNub  |  December 16 2012, 9:01AM

    even the travelling people who know billy connors cant stand this loud mouthed piece of xxxx thats why he never went anywhere on his own now judge split them all up to different areas of the country and get the tax man involved to claim back what taxes they have avoided paying .

    Rate   12
  • PengiPete  |  December 15 2012, 9:58PM

    The most fitting punishment for these creatures would be a long sentence of hard labour on a diet of bread and water in the roughest, most run-down prison available.

    Rate   22
  • bonzaharris1  |  December 15 2012, 7:40PM

    They had the nerve to describe their vulnerable victims as "dossers", and no doubt that was their justification for getting rich on their virtually free labour, and ill treating them into the bargain. Pretty rich coming from a family who belong to the travelling community, who are renowned for tax dodging and thieving !!

    Rate   23
  • TheMoanerLisa  |  December 15 2012, 7:26PM

    So many properties and plenty of land sold to other family members doesnt prove any wrong doing but lets be honest its hardly the behaviour of the normal law abiding families is it? By the time the forensic accountants have finished with this dispicable excuse for a family, I hope they will be forced to reside in the type of accomadation they forced others to live, after the long sentences they all serve. Nothing hurts a static traveller more than taking their money and exposing their lifestyle. Perhaps the HMRC will scrutinise more of them.

    Rate   19
  • mememe1961  |  December 15 2012, 6:08PM

    Would you trust them to build a driveway or patio for you !!!

    Rate   28
  • Takeaway22  |  December 15 2012, 5:19PM

    The biggest scandal is that the police and authorities actually knew something was going on for quite some time, but took no action because the fear of upsetting the traveller community. Having worked in a prestige German car dealer, the Connors came in on a regular basis with money to spend. Most of the salesmen disappeared when travellers came in as they were/are aware (or suspected) the origins of their money and quite frankly, they were a pain in the neck to deal with.

    Rate   16
  • Lord_Gaga_  |  December 15 2012, 12:37PM

    I hope the tax man gets involved and the planning department, for those caravans/houses.

    Rate   27
  • jeno2011  |  December 15 2012, 12:23PM

    Don't the Government also enforce slave labour on the 'WORK PROGRAMME''? And if the person fails to participte, their money is stopped and they find themselves out on the street; many dying from hyperthermia while the rich cats mess up the banking system and are rewarded with big fat bonuses.

    Rate   -28