Here’s a depressing story to really get your Monday started: UK police have liberated 24 modern day slaves who were being held captive in the small town of Leighton Buzzard, some for up to 15 years.
The men, aged 20 to 50 and from Britain, Poland, Russia, and Romania, were released from a caravan site on Sunday. All had been coerced into forced labor by their captors, and some had spent their time in bondage sleeping in sheds, dog kennels, and horse boxes.
A pre-dawn police raid at the weekend involving over 200 police officers, dog units, and a police helicopter found the men emaciated and starved. Bedfordshire police reported the slaves had been living in “filthy and cramped” conditions. One, said police, was discovered covered in dog excrement.
Five people – four men and a woman – have been arrested after a long-running undercover operation. All five are residents of the caravan park, and are being held on suspicion of committing offenses under the Slavery and Servitude Act 2010. The cops also reported finding weapons, drugs and money at the site.
Detective Chief Inspector Sean O’Neil, of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire major crime unit, revealed that the men were all vulnerable individuals, often found in soup kitchens and welfare offices. O’Neil revealed:
“We heard in one case a man had been sitting on the parapet of a bridge ready to commit suicide when he was spotted by this gang and brought here to the site after being promised paid work and a roof over his head. It was all lies.”
While at the site, they had been forced to perform labor for twelve hours on most days, given meagre rations, and beaten if they complained.
The 24 men have now been taken to a medical centre for an assessment of their health. If found guilty of coercing the men into forced labor, those responsible could face up to seven years in prison. Regrettably, these vile examples of humanity will have a rather more comfortable life in prison than those they enslaved.